Sonia Sanchez: True artistry meets LOUD
April is National Poetry Month and LOUD Girl Movement is celebrating by featuring stories, poems, and videos about Black women who express their voice through poetry and prose that have helped to shape cultures worldwide.
First up is Living Legend Mama Sonia Sanchez, a phenomenal poet, activist and educator, who is known for always using her voice to boldly speak the truth – a true LOUD Girl.
One of the facets of being a LOUD Girl is that the act of speaking truth to power often comes at a significant cost that negatively affects our livelihoods. This is a silencing tactic commonly used against Black women, and Mama Sonia has experienced it many times for using her voice.
While working at San Francisco State, she created the first Black Studies Program in the country. As the pioneer of Black Studies programs, her ability to create a program that was truly educational was unrivaled.
Sonia Sanchez. | Photo: BADDDDD Sonia Sanchez.
While working at Borough Manhattan Community College (BMCC), she was interested in being the Chair of the Black Studies Program. She said, “This is a community college. Unless you engage students in what’s happening in the community – and all over the world – you’re only offering dry intellectual courses, like any other courses, that don’t mean anything to the community in Harlem or in all the other Harlems in New York City.” She also said, “We have to have term papers as part of courses…But more than this we need projects to connect Black intellect with the Black community who haven’t been able to come to college. We need courses that are also meaningful and helpful to them.”
Mama Sonia met significant pushback by the college and was pushed out of BMCC for her beliefs and her work to implement a Black Studies program that was rooted in serving the communities in which the college existed.
The Tiger Paper, billed as the only underground newspaper of the college, stated that she was constantly “subjected to continual administrative harassment and attempts at intimidation” for her “fresh ideas and outspoken views on education.” This included the Personnel and Budget Committee attempting to fire her; the Black Studies Chair refusing to approve her course, “The Black Woman” – a course she taught at City College, Rutgers and the University of Pittsburgh; a dean creating a dossier against her; a police officer being stationed outside her classroom door; and attempts to water down and change her syllabus and exams in her “Black Writers” course.
In the following video, Mama Sonia discusses how she was pushed out of New York City for standing up for students and their right to a true and meaningful education.
Musical Genius and Activist Nina Simone once said, “An artist’s duty – as far as I’m concerned – is to reflect the times…How can you be an artist and not reflect the time? That to me, is the definition of an artist.”
Mama Sonia is a true artist whose expression goes far beyond poetry. We celebrate her, her LOUD, and her devotion to the liberation of Black people.
Editor | LOUD Girl Movement Blog
*Source: “What The Struggle’s About.” Tiger Paper, Feb. 1973, p. 1-2, cdha.cuny.edu/items/show/1881. Accessed 10 Apr. 2018.