Interview with Sonia Sanchez

Can you give me a sense of Baraka's poem "The Nation Time?" Do you remember that?


Oh yeah, ah, I, I, I think had heard that poem before he did it there. I could be wrong. Um, but you know, Barbara Ann Teer and a lot of people who was, she was the, the, the head of the Black National Theatre. Ah, people came down and recited what it was be inter--involved with "Nation Time". What was interesting about that is that people said, "Nation Time," and people began to sing it and chant "Nation Time". And so when Barbara Ann Teer and her, and her Theater Group began to say, "It's Nation Time." And Baraka began to say, "It's Nation Time." And when we began, as poets, to say, "It's Nation Time. Get it together brother. Get it together sister. This nation needs you, requires you. This nation requires your energy, your intelligence, your, your, your, your abilities," whatever. Ah, the people began to chant in the house "It's Nation Time, Nation, Nation Time." And we knew what nation we were talking about. Because the country told us there was a White nation and a Black nation. So, we knew we were talking about a Black nation at that time. And that was important for people to understand that, ah, so people chanted. It was a call and response that was going on there. Ah, and we responded to the call for Nation Time. And Nation Time meant very strict, um, um, response to what was going on in the country: "Get your life together. Ah, get your politics together. Ah, get your eyeballs straight." You know what I'm saying? "Ah, get the body straight, the hair straight, the face straight. Ah and get your job straight. Whom are you working for and, and what are you working for? Ah, and what is this world all about? Ah, are you indeed a human being or are you think, do you think you're a human being? If you think you are a human being you probably aren't going to act like one. Become the human being that people want, really want us to become." As a consequence you, you found people walking out, out of each cultural night, you see the cultural night, ah, reinforced the workshops. What happened in the workshops, you see, the cultural nights said, said it again in voice, in singing, in poetry, in dance and whatever, and music, you see. Because when people talked it during the day they sang it at night. When people, ah, argued during the day, at night it came together you see? And people, people's names were mentioned. So we mention all the names. We didn't leave out anybody when we sang this Nation Time. "For you too, Whitney. For you too, Diggs," you know. "For you too, Baraka. For you too Farrakhan," you see? Everybody was included you see in, in that, you see. And as a consequence, you see, people, ah, left there humming, "It's Nation Time, it's Nation Time." And it got all the way into their insides, all the way down to their toe jam.