Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sekou Sundiata RIP

SundiataThis past Tuesday I got word that poet Sekou Sundiata (1948-2007) had passed. Many poets and activists I know revere him and his work; I must admit that though I'm personally familiar with only a little of his work, mainly from Russell Simmons's Def Poetry. Over the last two decades, although I've heard many (but not all, certainly) of the important African-American poets of the two or three generations preceding mine read and perform their work live, I never had the opportunity to do so with Sundiata. I do know that he was one of the polestars for contemporary performance (though he did not consider himself a "performance poet") and Spoken Word poetry, and that two of his works in particular, The Blue Oneness of Dreams and longstoryshort, had a particularly powerful influence through their skillful, soul-filled melding of various musics, lyric and narrative poetry, and staged performance. Over the years, he toured with musicians such as Nona Hendryx, David Murray, and Craig Harris; one of his students who went on to great frame and recorded with him was Ani DiFranco. At the time of his death, Sundiata, a Harlem native who was a professor in the writing program at Eugene Lang College of New School University, in New York, had launched his newest work, the 51st (dream) state, a multimedia project that addressed the question of Americanness in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Here's the Academy of American Poets' obituary of Sundiata.

Here's a YouTube example of Sundiata reading one of his poems.

This upcoming Saturday, July 28, the Bowery Poetry Club will host a Sekou Praise Day. From their site:

Saturday, July 28 2007
3:00pm - 5:00pm
Sekou Sundiata Praise Day-“shortstorylong”

Gather to praise share further remember forget bring up stories recite poems perform dreams discover new loves energize yourself continue invent greet tolerate lie dance

We’ll play Sekou’s CDs and watch his videos, and there will be as many poems for him as there is room for.

Donations may be made in the name of Sekou Sundiata to the New York Organ Donor Network or to the National Kidney Foundation.

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