Interview with Sonia Sanchez
QUESTION 25
INTERVIEWER:

What other influences were there on your poetry at this time?

SONIA SANCHEZ:

Of course, ah, Brother Malcolm. Of course what was going on.

INTERVIEWER:

I'm sorry--

SONIA SANCHEZ:

The, the influences on my poetry at that, ah, at that time, was of course, Brother Malcolm, ah, his sense of heartness, his sense of humor, and his sense of playing the dozens. People forget that you see. We integrated all of that in our poetry. So, we had hard-hitting poetry, but, af--after we hit people, we were like in a sense, given a chance to breathe and say, "Okay, you have a little breath. You have a little leeway here." Um, also what was going on in the South. Ah, the movement in the South played a great importance in, in my poetry in that I wrote about the children being killed in Birmingham. I wrote about people moving in the South, trying to move towards what it meant, not only to be Black, but also to grasp power at that particular time. Also, I read a lot of people, of what was going on ah, in Cuba, ah, influenced me. Ah, what was going on in terms of a Gillianne[SIC] and a Neruda. We extended ourselves. We had to teach Third World literature because we were teaching in Black Studies, so I couldn't relegate myself just to a Phyllis Wheatley or Du Bois I had to then move out and read what the Chairman was saying, what Neruda had said, what Gillienne[SIC] was saying, Gillianne[SIC] was saying, what, ah, ah, other people were saying in terms of leadership. So, we went to Africa and we all of a sudden looked up and began to read the African poets. I met, Ngugi came to this country. And I met him and he listened to me read. He said, "When I go back home, I've got to write like you people are writing now about yourselves, a sense of identity." So all of these influences, what was going on in the world and the Black Diaspora, you see, influenced all of us and we began to come together. We met. We shook hands. We hugged. We said simply, "This is what we've got to do worldwide. This is a movement that must go worldwide. It must, um, people must hear what we're saying about ourselves and about the world." And so there was this sense of not only Black identity, Black consciousness, but always the sense of Black politics also, being weaved in, because when people said "Black Power," we say, "Yeah, here it is in poetry. Look at this, ho, ho, ho." When people said, "Ah, we need, ah, land," say "Here it is. Let me you about land, ok.?" When people said, said simply that we need Black schools, we said, "Let me tell you about Black schools. Here's a poem about a child loving herself and she'll love herself more if we take over these bloody schools or if we have our own schools, period." So, there was always the coming together. We were like weaving together, moving in, if someone said something, we picked it up in the literature. When someone said, simply, "We need to go South," I did a trilogy of plays that talked about, ah, "The Bronx is Next" and "Moving South", "The Trek South, Returning Home Forever." And someone said something else, we say, "Oh, we got the poem for you. We got the music for you. We wrote songs for people to sing and record," you see. There was that move, moving, coming, coming together, you see. When I saw Coltrane playing his last concert I went home and wrote a poem about, about, ah, Coltrane and then began to use my voice at the same time. So when I did a Coltrane poem and got to the poem, the part where we didn't understand what Coltrane was doing at the time, I went with my voice. And I brought up Coltrane at the same time. When I said, ah, "Are you sleeping brother John? Are you sleeping brother John?" I responded with my voice, ah, when I said those words also, too. It is that kind of motion and movement that we did. And I saw the paintings for the first time. When I saw Charles White painting for the first time, stumble over this painting. Ah, when I saw, saw a Bearden for the first time, stumble over this pain--I responded in terms of my writings also, too, about, we were like in every arena, looking at each other, ah, when I heard people speak, ah, all the way from a Stokely to a Baraka, ah, to, ah, ah, a Mohammad Ahad, -med. You know, you name the people, you know, Akbar, you name the people. We responded to each other. When Queen Mother Moore stood on the stage and said, "Reparations," I said, "What the he--what's, what's reparations?" She came down off the stage and said, "Honey, let me tell you reparations. It, it's what we all should have," you see? Then I went and wrote about that also, too. This is what I'm talking about. It's that kind of moving in and out of each other--that kind of coming together. No separation of the art, the culture and the politics. And so we said simply, I wrote an essay that said, "Culture is the consciousness of a people. If you don't own and maintain the culture, you will not keep, keep a conscious people. They will become unconscious. They will give you all kinds of peculiar people and call it your culture and it's not your culture at all."