Interview with Sonia Sanchez

Can you give me a sense of what you were fighting against in terms of the image of Black folks at that time?


The image of Black folk in the late '50's, early '60's, um, was one of, in the movies still, of like the big fat mammy syndrome, you know? Ah, um, I mean it's not by chance that people say the most important movie is "Gone With the Wind." You know. Come on. Because you had like, "Miss Lucy Mae, honeychile', you mean that no-good man done left you honeychile'? Honey, honey, honey, honey, honey, 'course I'll come. I'll stay with you and work for you. I'll do all I can for you." She said, "But I can't pay you any money darling." "Honey, I don't need no money. I don't need no money, and I'll, I'll work for nothing cause you is my family." And then of course she has six little crumb-crushers at home. We saw that. You know. And we said, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's not what African American women be. That's not what they are. Not at all. Period." And we began to literally reconstruct the image forever. Of course we still had those funny movies coming, Tarzan movies, you know, that we grew up on. Ah, African people were always scared people, whatever. And we said, "I, I came through Harlem. I couldn't have been scared." You know what I'm saying? If I was scared I was dead, you know? So therefore, we began to say simply, that's why people are always brash, you know, very much sure of themselves. Ah, people want to say, we didn't see always like, a, a human quality. Well, the, the human quality was to make them bad, you know what I'm saying? I mean, like, that was like the human quality. We saw bad. You don't mess with us, you see? And what that did. Oh the telephone, yeah--