'Black Arts to Hip Hop' at Clark, with poet/activist Sonia Sanchez

Internationally renowned, award-winning poet and activist/scholar Sonia Sanchez will share her dynamic work about the evolution of revolutionary black art and politics in “From Black Arts to Hip Hop: Implications for the 21st Century,” a free, public lecture presented by the Higgins School for Humanities at Clark University, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, in Razzo Hall, Traina Center for the Arts, 92 Downing St.

Sanchez, formerly professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple University, is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. Considered one of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez is the author of sixteen books. She is one of 20 African American women featured in “Freedom Sisters,” an interactive exhibition created by the Cincinnati Museum Center and Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition.

** Clark’s student organization, Hip Hop Collabo, will open the program with a performance from their current repertoire on the evolution of rap. **

“Sanchez’s work is about activism, about political awareness, about freedom, about peace; and about how we can and do use art such as poetry and hip hop to engage these important issues,” said Esther Jones, assistant professor of English and organizer of this event, which is the first of Clark’s 2010-11 African American Intellectual Culture Series. “We anticipate that this event will bring together not only the intellectual community, but the student community, the activist community, and anyone interested in making connections across generations, across communities in the name of peace.”

Jones said it is “critical for young people to have access to our national treasures, and to have a greater sense of the history and legacy to which they owe so much of what they love about contemporary culture.” She said she is particularly pleased that Clark’s student organization, Hip Hop Collabo, will open the program with a performance from their current repertoire on the evolution of rap, which will be debuted fully in their fall concert the first weekend of December. Hip Hop Collabo is a wildly popular group on campus and attests to the global currency that Hip Hop holds for the younger generation of today, Jones adds.

The Black Arts Movement was a period of literary proliferation by African American artists during the height of Civil Rights and Black Power eras of political activism. Black Arts Movement artists believed that they could empower the disenfranchised through forms that would and did reach the masses – performance poetry, drama and plays, and music, especially, Jones adds.

“This event at Clark provides a great opportunity that not only brings together intellectual concerns I discuss in my classes with cultural phenomena, like the contemporary global music that Hip Hop has become; it also attracts a variety of audiences, bridging the generational divide between a presumably more activist generations from the ’60s and ’70s and the presumed politically ‘apathetic’ younger generations for whom the liberation struggles of Sanchez’s generation may seem like ancient history,” Jones said.

Sanchez continues her activism through her art and in her involvement with the Granny Peace Brigade (GPB), a group of elderly women who have protested the Iraq war by engaging in such acts as enlisting in the army and asking to be sent in place of the young people who are sent to die; and by sitting in recruitment offices, discouraging young men from enlisting. Sanchez has been arrested for this peace activism, and continues to challenge U.S. war policies through her involvement with the GBP.

The African American Intellectual Culture Series of the Higgins School of Humanities at Clark brings scholars, activists and artists concerned with contemporary African American culture, literature, history, and theory to campus each year. The series has run for more than a decade; recent visitors include Paula Giddings of Smith College, Tricia Rose of Brown University, Peniel Joseph of Tufts University, Tonya Lee Lewis, and Ann duCille of Wesleyan University.

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