Interview with Sonia Sanchez
QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

Do you think it made him more vulnerable?

SONIA SANCHEZ:

And I think it, of course, it made him much more vulnerable because you see, for him to have said to people, "I don't want to search you," when you realize that people are searched now, um, it made him, actually you know, literally vulnerable in the sense you see. But the point is that couldn't change. He had to do what he had to do because of, of course the movement toward human rights was a very real movement. And African-Americans have always been at the forefront of the human rights movement. So he was on time. The point is that his organization had grown to support him as he was moving. His ideas had grown in a very real sense. But he didn't have the platform, the real platform, so he was in the Audubon Ballroom. You see what I'm saying? A place that was crumbling, um, ah, a place that didn't have the kind of security that it should have had. And so I think that when he came out on that stage that the morning I heard, I was going to the Audubon that day. Had been out the night before reading. Had gotten lazy and had said simply, "Ah, I'll go next week." And so proceeded to go into the kitchen, put some coffee on, turn on the radio. In my little apartment there, I had a little Black and White kitchen table with these little Black chairs. And I had this little Black radio on that table. And I put the radio on. As I stood there thinking about what had happened the night before, turned towards the stove to pick up my coffee and a flash came through on this station and said Malcolm had been assassinated.**. And I froze. I remember turning in that kitchen and screaming. I remember walking down to my living room to my bedroom to put my clothes on. And I remember cursing myself for not being there because I thought maybe in some strange obscure fashion that if some of us had been there perhaps it wouldn't have happened, but of course it would have happened, but still. I remember coming back saying, "No, no this can't be. This has not happened to us at this particular point." And I remember the rage, the sheer rage, not helplessness, just rage. And then sitting down and just sitting still for the rest of the morning because the telephone began to ring with people asking me had I heard. And I said, "Of course I've heard." And I remember hanging up the telephone and the telephone ringing again. And they said, "Did you hear? Is he really dead, Sonia?" And I knew he was dead at that point. And I said, "Yes, he's dead." And I remember what all that was about at that point. That um, that sheer rage, that this man was no longer on the earth. And then I began to, later on that, that night I began to write a poem that I had done for him that night. Didn't finish it but I'd begun it. Um, and I began, I understood finally that, I came to some terms with death, I think, that, that night. I said simply in my anger "Why, why him?" Why not some other person, etc.? And then I began to talk to myself. I began to understand insanity for the first time in my life because I knew that many of us would speak out about it. And we had to be sane about it. We had to have some sense of it. Um, I knew also at that particular point that we had to um, that we were looking at a country that not only would kill, but also, ah, would begin to explain. But because already on the radio all day long and the television, the explanations were coming as to who had done it, why it was done, etc. So we had to be prepared for like looking at it, analyzing it in a very real sense. Ah, I remember that night I didn't sleep. I remember some people came by and we talked about it. I remember, ah, walking them downstairs, um, from my apartment and then coming back up. I remember the faces of people, ah, people like were crying, would just stop and we'd cry. And I remember hugging people saying simply, "Yes, this has happened but he'll always live on as long as I breathe and you breathe, and you truly believe that African-American people need to be free. And all oppressed people need to be free." I remember saying that. But I remember also not being that lucid, ah, in my own place and my own time with my own quiet--with my own pain. But I knew at some point that we would come through it, because he had given us so much, much more probably than we had given him. And I knew also because--



SONIA SANCHEZ:

But I knew at some point that we would come through it, because he had given us so much, much more probably than we had given him. And I knew also because someone wanted to say that he was before his time. I said, I remember saying, "He was on time." We're always on time, you see. Whether people want to deal with what we say when we say it is not the--