Sonia Sanchez shares herstory and poetry in Stella Adler actors conversation

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January 18th – Dr. Sonia Sanchez, a world renowned author, poet, professor, and activist, graced the Billie Holiday Theatre, furthering her legacy at Restoration which began in 1972. The event was led by Sade Lythcott, CEO of the National Black Theatre, which is based in Harlem. Indira Etwaroo, Executive Director of RestorationART, introduced the main speakers of the event and shared her personal connection with Dr. Sanchez and her inspirational body of work.

Lythcott began the conversation exploring Dr.Sanchez’s first book of poems, Homecoming, published in 1969. This work is a well known collection of poetry, which utilized politically charged language common the Civil Rights era of which Dr. Sanchez was a powerful voice of. Dr. Sanchez went on to explain how language in that time was used to rebel against the status quo, noting the difference in how such language is perceived today. She urges those reading her work today, particularly young people, to understand the context in which it was written.

The discussion later shifted to the assassination of Malcolm X and the ensuing political movement that developed leading to the Black Arts Movement in late 1960’s. The Black Arts Movement, featuring prominent writers like Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni, was known as a second Harlem Renaissance that bolstered the voice of African American literary figures. Sanchez referred to the movement as the beginning of the “Black Aesthetic” and the importance of the National Black Theatre, which was founded by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, mother of Lythcott. The theatre became a space for performing and reading the revolutionary works of the time.

By the end of the night, questions from the audience evoked more memories of the past. The first question came from an audience member who was curious about the love poems Dr. Sanchez had written. Dr. Sanchez shared a story about an old woman she met on a park bench in Philadelphia, who taught her the importance of listening to her elders, a message which later inspired her poems. Another audience member asked if Dr. Sanchez felt that each political movement she lived through felt similar to one another. Dr. Sanchez acknowledged that the progress of any movement was due to the foundation set by the one that preceded it. She emphasized the hard work done by activists in each movement allowed space for the next group of activist to realize their freedom.

Dr. Sanchez left the audience with an assignment - “to refrain from judgement of our fellow humans for one week”. This challenge will be an excellent way to remember our common humanity and the lessons shared by the “Silver Locs of Wisdom”.