Umar’s Story

Born Gilbert Jerome Huling, Umar Bin Hassan is an African-American Poet and one of the original members of the legendary spoken-word group, The Last Poets.

Born in Ohio in 1948, as a teenager, he worked a day job at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. By night, Umar was at the center of the 1967 Akron Riots. Sparked by the Black Power Movement, the riots would become the backdrop of Umar’s revolutionary career as a poet.

Umar Bin Hassan was born in 1948 in Akron, Ohio, into a poor black worker’s family. As a teenager, he worked a day job at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. By night, Umar was at the center of the 1967 Akron Riots. Already as a young man he dreamed of escaping his family’s lot and getting more out of life than slaving for the white man at the local rubber mill. So he sold his little sister’s record player to buy himself a bus ticket for New York City. Sparked by the Black Power Movement, the riots would become the backdrop of Umar’s revolutionary career as a poet. In 1969, Umar joined The Last Poets, a group of black poets spreading a militant political message akin to that of the Black Panthers and Malcom X.

New York very nearly became Umar Bin Hassan’s death. Of course, there was poetry, the passionate performances of The Last Poets, and there was bebop, the music of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, whom he revered and who influenced his poems. But the ‘demons’ of drug abuse – as he called them – got him into their power and drove him out into the streets. He wandered from crackhouse to crackhouse, hustling, dealing, shooting up, until his sister finally came to his rescue and took him into her Connecticut home.

He succeeded in kicking his crack habit and in regaining his zest for life. One day his little nephew played a tape recording of a Hip-Hop band named Tribe Called Quest, who had, without his knowledge, set one of his own poems to music. The new Hip-Hop was trying to link up with The Last Poets. Such rappers as Ice Cube and Chuck D. of Public Enemy sought inspiration with them, and Umar now felt he should return to New York and continue his work with The Last Poets, whose message was still a relevant one, and resume his writing and performing with the group.

These days he tours with The Last Poets and mentors upcoming poets, splitting his time between the Midwest and Maryland.

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Super Efficient

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Deeply Committed

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Highly Skilled

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Umar Bin Hassan

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