Thursday, August 13, 2015
BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez 
BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez  (codirected by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon) is a documentary about the prolific 80 year old African American writer / poet / educator Sonia Sanchez [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] co-foundress of the Black Arts/Studies Movement in California in the 1960s.
The documentary played recently as part of the 2015 (21st annual) Black Harvest Film Festival held here in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Her story could be inspiration to a lot of young educated men and women of color in the United States today because she had to navigate pretty much _every_ professional obstacle that could be placed in front of a woman or person of color to marginalize him/her:
Yes, she was a co-founder of the Black Studies Movement movement in the 1960s and hence had to FIRST DEFEND the very legitimacy of "Black Studies" as field worthy of academic endeavor and THEN had to fight clueless (generally white) university administrators who wanted the works of towering African American figures like Booker T. Washington (an African American leader of the post-Reconstruction Era who built an entire movement around African American self-reliance) and W.E.B. DuBois (the founder of the N.A.A.C.P. !) to be kept _outside_ of emerging Black Studies curricula (LOL ... probably "Uncle Tom's Cabin" would have been "okay" ...)
Then, she became an initially reluctant but as time went on _scathing_ African American opponent to the Black Panther movement also emerging in California in the 1960s for its horrendous marginalization / mistreatment of African American women.
For a time, she was part of the Nation of Islam movement RUNNING SCHOOLS FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSLIM WOMEN within the movement, until she came to realize with hard experience that this Muslim affiliated movement was, after all, (if _not_ explicitly hostile) not particularly oriented toward promoting higher / scholarly education of women.
And she did all this WHILE RAISING THREE CHILDREN -- two sons and a daughter -- in the course of two marriages (both eventually failed) and finally on her own.
What she did have, always, was her writing and her poetry and eventually a rock solid conviction that _violence_ of any kind, was NEVER the solution.
By then, living and teaching at Temple University in Philadelphia she publicly challenged then Philadelphia's African American mayor's 1985 decision to _bomb_ the somewhat odd, to many misguided, black separatist movement "MOVE's" compound in Philadelphia, an action that killed 11 MOVE members including 5 children. Later, to oppose the 2003 Iraq War along with several other "grannies" (both black and white), she participated in a sit-in at at U.S. army recruitment office after the recruiters wouldn't take _their_ applications to enter the Army "rather than the young ones."
Those who know something about poetry will find her philosophy there fascinating: Sonia Sanchez [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] is famous for her free verse BUT she's also written _entire books_ on and in the style of Haiku and she would insist that her students become masters in form poetry _like but not inclusive_ of Haiku BEFORE going into free verse. Also in the film, Ms Sanchez insisted that when she speaks, there's always a "sound track" (perhaps only in her imagination) behind it. And indeed, most of the times when the film showed her reciting poetry, there was a jazz ensemble of one-sort-or-another playing "background."
All in all, I found this documentary about Ms. Sanchez to be a joy. I found her person to be _very interesting_ and inspirational. And I appreciate festivals such as this, the annual Black Harvest Festival held here in Chicago, as an opportunity to be introduced to people like her and to other artists, indeed often enough film makers, that I otherwise would probably never have learned about, but can enrich my / other's lives.
While this documentary film was _wonderful_, one need not find / see it to learn about Sonia Sanchez [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn]. There's plenty to find about her across the internet, in book stores and in libraries. Just follow the links I've placed along side her name ;-)
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