Interview with Sonia Sanchez

What was the new Black image that came out with the Black consciousness?


Well, the new Black image was one of people who were taking control of their lives. One that denied, ah, that Africans in the, uh, Diaspora were, were weak, ah, child, you know childish, um, childlike, ah, incapable of doing anything. It denied that whole image of Black women as whore. I mean we as Black women put that down to rest, to sleep. Ah, the whole image of the pickininny kind of thing, ah, and we did that by braiding our hair and saying, see, "Lookey here, look at these braids," you see, because we've been braiding our hair for a very long time don't forget. Um, these are the kinds we, and, and, and African-American men who were taking control of their lives. Um, they're not scared and shakey. Ah, the images that we gave in our poetry were, were men and women who were very certain of what they were doing, uh, strong, um, men and women--complex, you know? Weaknesses yeah, okay, but not weaknesses that would destroy them, you see. And I think that initially at the very beginning, ah, a lot of the writing was, was on purpose one-sided, in that, um, even one-dimensional on some levels, ah, to show simply an audience, this is a possibility. This is really how people are. But if you really read, if you do a close reading of the literature of that period, there was always, ah, the other that was there too at that time. Quite often people push one, one side of the literature we were doing. But you always had the poems about being lonely, the poems about being a woman, the poems about, ah, being a mother, a single mother, the poems about being, um, oppressed, along, but there's a double and a triple oppression that we all had at the very beginning, ah, ah, as, as we wrote, you see. Most certainly as the women, the African-American women were writing the pieces, um, and always, most of the times, the difference is that we were not victims. Ah, and you must understand that, um, we say, "Yeah, I'm lonely but the point is that and, and I'm by myself and I might even show some fear every now and then." But most of us had gone through the whole process of expelling fear. You know, if you listen to Brother Malcolm long enough you expel fear, you know. If you really got up and did something. If you became active, fear was expelled from the body. It's when you are inactive that fear accumulates like fat in the body, okay? And that's what I'm saying. So the moment you, we, we can't, we were lean, we were lean, you know, we stayed lean because we moved around a lot. We were lean with action and lean with courage you see and we leaned against the co- the country with that courage, you see. But the activism made that happen.