Remembering Piri Thomas (1928-2011)

We regret to announce the passing of the Puerto Rican-American author and poet Piri Thomas whose life was depicted in the documentary ‘Every Child is Born A Poet‘ by Jonathan Robinson. 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 Juan Pedro Tomás, of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents in New York City’s Spanish Harlem in 1928, Piri Thomas began his struggle for survival, identity, and recognition at an early age. Ever since the publication of Down These Mean Streets, Piri talked to people, young and old, about his struggle for survival and identity and the effects of racism upon our children and upon himself as a Latino and a person of color. His fundamental message, Unity Among Us, draws from the spiritual and cultural realms to articulate the roots of our dignity as human beings, part of an earth and a universe. To convey this message, which is adaptable to many settings, Piri utilized dramatic readings of both published and unpublished prose and poetry, authored by him or other writers, to provide a veritable concert of the spoken word. Sometimes, utilizing music to accompany his message. With his stage magnetism he always created a popular, unifying, and uplifting experience in which he delighted his audiences while conveying his attractive underlying message of unity, positive self-affirmation, peace, and social justice.

In addition, Piri offered informative insights into the Puerto Rican literary and historical experience from a New York perspective. His special workshops on creative writing, “Creations Without Hesitations,” urge participants to seek a literary outlet for their personal experiences, as he emphasizes a topic close to his heart: “The worst prison is the prison of the mind,” a philosophy which guides his own life.

Written sentiments may be sent to Piri’s family to or 2503 Edwards Ave. El Cerrito, CA 94530. However, the family requests no flowers or gifts.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

For more information, please e-mail:
Suzie Dod Thomas at
or view his website,
No phone calls, please.

For more information please read the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) press release here.

For a complete biography of Piri Thomas please visit


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Latino Public Broadcasting is the leader of the development, production, acquisition and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural media that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to the public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. LPB provides a voice to the diverse Latino community on public media throughout the United States. Latino Public Broadcasting is a registered 501(c)(3), EIN: 95-4776447.
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