Smile Politely

Poet Sonia Sanchez Speaks Tonight

The radical movements of 1968 eventually collapsed beneath the weight of two competing forces; the politically radical and the socially radical. Some tried LSD, some tried SDS. Some turned to Eastern spirituality as a form of transcendence, and others turned to the decidedly visceral militancy of the Black Panthers, and the Weather Underground.

And while the art of the former, in the form of acid rock and psychedelic graffiti, came to define the era, the art incorporating more of the latter faction is often unjustly ignored. One could easily make the argument that literary achievements such as the Black Arts movement presented a much more significant, resonant, and ultimately radical contribution to American culture.

Sonia Sanchez, a poet and activist, stands as one on of the movement’s leading lights, her method and style of poetry a faultless example of American political poetry in the 1960s and 70s — blunt, heartbreaking, and viciously honest. She incorporates slang, misspellings, and sarcasm into her poetry almost flawlessly, so that when an instant of vulnerability pierces the hardened exterior, the moment quickly becomes revelatory. Her poetry, like so much American poetry, begs to be read aloud to achieve its fullest impact.

She will be presenting a speech and readings at the Levis Faculty Center. 2008 marks the fortieth anniversary of The Black Fire Anthology, perhaps the defining document of the Black Arts Movement and an anthology incorporating poetry, essays, theater and fiction representing the length and breadth of radical, Black thought during the decade. Tonight an extraordinary artist will be on hand to celebrate an extraordinary movement of continued relevance.

Tonight, Sanchez presents “Defiant Trespass: Lessons from the Black Art Movement for ‘this place called America,” tonight at 7:30 p.m. on the Third Floor of Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana.

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