Since there are so many facets of the history that people of African descent have made in this country, I’ve decided to continue my “Black History 365″ series from my poetry blog here on my AfrocentriqueAZ blog. In honor of National Poetry Month, I’ll be posting a new Black poet every day this month. Every Wednesday for the months after that I will post other Black history figures (I’ll go back to my “first Black” series).
Today’s poet is Sonia Sanchez (video at the end of the post)
From Famous Poets and Poems and Wikipedia:
Sonia Sanchez (born Wilsonia Benita Driver, September 9, 1934) is an African-American poet most often associated with the Black Arts Movement. She has authored over a dozen books of poetry, as well as plays and children’s books. She was a recipient of 1993 Pew Fellowships in the Arts.
Sanchez was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 9, 1934. Her mother died when Sanchez was only a year old, so she was sent to live with her paternal grandmother. She then lived with family and friends until 1943, when she moved to Harlem to live with her father, her sister, and her stepmother, who was her father’s third wife. In 1955, Sanchez received a B.A. in Political Science from Hunter College, where she had also taken several creative writing courses. Later, she completed postgraduate work at New York University, where she studied poetry with Louise Bogan.
Although her first marriage to Albert Sanchez did not last, Sonia Sanchez would retain her professional name. Sanchez then married poet Etheridge Knight. They later divorced. In 1972, she joined the Nation of Islam, but left the organization after three years in 1975 because her views on women’s rights conflicted with theirs. She has three children and three grandchildren.
She taught 5th Grade in NYC at the Downtown Community School, until 1966. Sanchez has taught as a professor at eight universities and has lectured at over 500 college campuses across the US, including Howard University. She advocated the introduction of Black Studies courses in California. Sanchez was the first to create and teach a course based on Black Women and literature in the United States. Sanchez was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began working in 1977, where she held the Laura Carnell chair until her retirement in 1999. She is currently a poet-in-residence at Temple University. She has read her poetry in Africa, the Caribbean, China, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, Canada, and Cuba. In 2000, Sanchez has also appeared twice on Bill Cosby’s CBS show.
Sanchez is a member of the Plowshares, the Brandywine Peace Community and MADRE. She also supports MOMS AND in Alabama and the National Black United Front. Sanchez was a very influential part of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement. Sanchez was an advocate for the people. She was a member of CORE (Congress for Racial Equality), where she met Malcolm X. She wrote many plays and books that had to do with the struggles and lives of Black America. Sanchez has edited two anthologies on Black literature, We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans and 360° of Blackness Coming at You.
Sanchez is also known for her innovative melding of musical formats—like the blues—and traditional poetic formats like haiku and tanka. She also tends to use incorrect spelling to get her point across.
In 1969, Sanchez was awarded the P.E.N. Writing Award. She was awarded the National Education Association Award 1977–1988. She also won the National Academy and Arts Award and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Award in 1978–1979. In 1985, she was awarded the American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades. She has also been awarded the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities, and the Peace and Freedom Award from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
One of her more recent contemporary endeavors includes a spoken word interlude on “Hope is an Open Window” a song co-written by Diana Ross from her 1998, “Every Day is a New Day” album. The song is featured as the sound bed for a tribute video to 9/11 which can be viewed on YouTube.