Voices of Black Arts Movement come to FDU

Poets and visionaries Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez, both prominent members of the Black Arts Movement, shared their verse with the FDU community as part of the University's celebration of Black History Month.

By Kenna Caprio

The words of African-American poets Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez seemed to linger on in Wilson Auditorium long after the writers kept time, sang verse and read poetry.

“Poetic Justice: Voices of the People” featured Baraka and Sanchez, nationally renowned poets and authors, who read their works on February 21 at Dickinson Hall, Fairleigh Dickinson University.

From “Wise, Why's, Y'z,” Baraka recited verse about the slave trade including the penetrating lines: “At the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, there’s a railroad made of human bones, black ivory, black ivory.”

He also read and discussed the poem he wrote after September 11, “Somebody Blew Up America.”

“Terrorism that close was frightening,” Baraka said. “I thought it was like when I was a kid, and a plane hit the Empire State Building and there was a hole for a whole year. Then I saw the second plane.”

The controversial poem eventually led to the end of Baraka’s tenure as Poet Laureate of New Jersey.

As she steps up to the podium to read, Sanchez said, “It’s always good reading with Brother Baraka, because you’re in the presence of genius.”

In her poem “Peace,” Sanchez asks, “Can you rise up at the sound of peace? Can you make peace lighter than air? Can you make peace sing like butterflies? Until peace becomes the noise of the planet?” She wrote the verse after a white high school student in one of her poetry workshops told her that he wanted to have a peace program at his school and, in response, had a teacher call him a terrorist.

Sanchez also read from “Does Your House Have Lions?” in which she explores the voices of her family, including her brother and father, and the verse she wrote for Sweet Honey and the Rock, an African-American female a cappella group, called “Stay on the Battlefield.”

Baraka is the author of more than 40 books of essays, poems, drama, music history and criticism. A poet icon and revolutionary political activist, he has recited poetry and lectured on cultural and political issues extensively in the United States, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe.

Sanchez is the author of more than 16 books and a public speaker associated with the Black Arts Movement. She has lectured at more than 500 universities and colleges in the United States, in addition to speaking engagements in Africa, Cuba, England, Australia, China and Norway.

A question and answer session followed the readings and Baraka and Sanchez signed copies of their books and posed for photographs.

"Poetic Justice: Voices of the People” was co-sponsored by the Office of Student Life and the FDU Bookstore.

Student Bria Anderson has her book signed by poet Sonia Sanchez.

For Immediate Release

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (Metropolitan Campus Office)
Dickinson Hall, Room 3365, H-DH3-1, Teaneck, NJ 07666

Dina Schipper,
Director of Public Relations
Fax: 201-692-7019

Kenna Caprio,
Communications Writer
Fax: 201-692-7019

Helen Grill,
Senior General Clerk
Fax: 201-692-7019

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (College at Florham Office)
East Cottage, Second Floor, M-EC2-01, Madison, NJ 08450

Scott Giglio,
Assistant Director of Public Relations
Fax: 973-443-8671

Daniel Landau,
Public Relations Assistant
Fax: 973-443-8671