Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Puerto Rican-American author and poet Piri Thomas left his body & joined the Ancestors Monday, October 17, 2011

Piri Thomas
9/30/1928 - 10/17/2011
Beloved Puerto Rican-American author and poet Piri Thomas died Monday, October 17, 2011, in his home in El Cerrito, CA surrounded by his loving wife, Suzie, his children and caregivers, after succumbing to pneumonia.

Born September 30, 1928, in Harlem Hospital, New York City, of a Puerto Rican mother and Cuban father, his early years were documented in 1967 in his bestselling book, Down These Mean Streets, for which he was best known. He later wrote two other novels, Savior Savior Hold My Hand and Seven Long Times, several plays (The Golden Streets and Ole Ole Oy Vey), a book of short stories (Stories from El Barrio) , many poems, and recorded two CDs of poetry and music (Sounds of the Streets and No Mo' Barrio Blues). Three award-winning films (Petey and Johnny, The World of Piri Thomas, and Every Child is Born a Poet) were made about him. He spoke and performed at countless events at colleges, high schools, middle schools, senior centers, community gatherings, political rallies for peace and justice causes, and many more, while encouraging several generations of young people to be socially responsible in their career choices, and to write and perform poetry, which subsequently birthed the new wave of "spoken word" that has appeared throughout the country. His intuitive grasp of identity, race, and class issues inspired everyone he touched as his ideas were grounded in his moral authority and personal sense of dignity. He was sincere and generous to a fault.

He is survived by his wife, Suzie Dod Thomas, of El Cerrito, CA, six children, Peter Stacker of Chicago, Ricardo Thomas and SanDee Thomas of Orlando, FL, Raina Thomas and Tanee Thomas of Columbia, SC, and Renee Shank of Seattle; and 7 grandchildren, Megan, Brenann and Eryn Stacker, AJ Linares, Arielle and Kristen Thomas, and Sahali Shively, three stepchildren, Michael and Laura Olenick of NY, and David Elder of Los Angeles, and two step granchildren, Jacob and Lily Olenick.

The family requests no flowers or gifts. Written sentiments may be sent to or 2503 Edwards Ave. El Cerrito, CA 94530. Tax deductible donations (payable to Social Justice, earmarked for the Piri Thomas fund) maybe made in his name and sent to:

Piri Thomas Memorial Fund
C/O Social Justice/Global Options
PO Box 40601
San Francisco, CA 94140

To date, memorials are being planned for the Bay Area, New York, and Orlando, Florida. Dates to be announced.

For more information, please e-mail:

Suzie Dod Thomas at

No phone calls, please.

Letras Latinas thanks Bay Area poet Avotcja Jiltonilro for this information about Piri's passing.


Cumpian said...

I will be dedicating tonight's La Palabra Pura Poetry Reading in Chicago on Division street (on the Paseo Boriqua) October 19, 2011 in the memory of one of our greatest Puerto Rican and Latino writers. PUNTO!, como si dice Piri, Que Viva Piri Thomas!He performed aqui en Chicago for our hosting organization the Guild Complex back in the 1990's at the HotHouse.
That was a terrific night.

Francisco Aragón said...

Thanks for posting this Oscar, and for your words, as well, Carlos. I trust that Eduardo's reading was a great success? Thank you for guest-curating.