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I Love Sonia Sanchez


Ghelawdewos Araia, PhD

November 4, 2011

Sonia Sanchez came to Lehman College of the City University of New York on November 3, 2011 and in her honor I took my African Civilization class with me to the Lovinger Theater where she read her poem.


I had the honor to meet this wonderful woman of great stature in the world of poetry and literature. Once she began reading her poems, instantaneously I felt as if the Harlem Renaissance was reenacted with new dimensions and vistas.  There is no doubt that Sonia Sanchez is the direct descendant of the Harlem literary giants. The more she read, the more I felt as if a vibrant literary renaissance and cultural regeneration was taking place.


Before she began reading, however, she connected the Lehman audience in the Bronx with the downtown Manhattan ‘Occupy Wall Street’ militants by saying, “lets give a hand to the people in Wall Street.” After all, Sonia, like most poets, captures the reality on the ground, and as Benjamin Brawley aptly stated in his book ‘The Negro in Literature and Art in the United States,’ “literature is supposed to be a reflection of national life.” In point of fact, Sonia Sanchez, in no uncertain terms, addressed the audience by saying, “bring back the money from Iraq and Afghanistan so that we can have jobs here at home.”


Quoting DuBois, Sonia said, “The preparation for war is war,” “and I say, the preparation for peace is peace.” She further reinforced her message of peace by quoting Gandhi, “there is no way for peace; peace is the way,” and she galvanized the peace mission by a simple and yet profound phrase. “Writers are for peace,” she uttered in a mellow but penetrating tone. I love this woman dearly! She is a holy woman and a peacemaker!


Sonia Sanchez entertained the audience by her wit and sense of humor and the many genre of poetry that she read. She read poems that she wrote for Bill Cosby, Martin Luther King, and Toupak etc. She read love poems and captivated the audience. 


Students of literature in the audience could have been more into detecting the rhythmic patterns (especially when her reading was intermittently accompanied by a click language and nonverbal communication of her index finger) tone, irony, paradox, and narrative techniques of her poems. But, the majority in the audience, I gather, was impressed by her down to earth personality and her absolutely sincere concern for the young generation. She told them in plain English, “This is your earth, this is your world,” and she empowered the young men and women in the audience by figuratively furnishing a message: ‘If you act properly, you can control your destiny and perform miracles’ (my own interpretation) and she even said, “you [ought] to be healing your body, your mind, and your neighborhood.”    


As soon as the poem reading was over, I had to rush to my class but on my way to my office I thought of writing a brief poem for Sonia Sanchez, and here it is:


                                I love Sonia Sanchez

                                A poet, a woman, a feminist

                                But above all a global humanist


                                Every person to her

                                Irrespective of color and creed

                                Is a brother or a sister


                                I love Sonia Sanchez

                                She is love herself

                                Found everywhere in the universe

                                Everywhere from the ghetto to the bookshelf


                                What a woman she is Sonia

                                The godmother of young poets

                                From America to Azania

                                From Philadelphia to Ethiopia


                                Sonia is a global humanist

                                A spokesperson for the planet

                                An advocate of cooperation and spirituality

                                She is a woman who forced me to love her dearly.



Sonia Sanchez was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1934 and moved to Harlem, New York in the 1940s and the following brief bio from her official website suffice to know this brilliant poet: Sonia Sanchez – poet, activist, scholar – was the Laura Cornell professor of English and Women’s studies at Temple University. She is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal of distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. One of the important writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez is the author of sixteen books.


Some praise for Sonia Sanchez:


“This world is a better place because of Sonia Sanchez: more livable, more laughable, more manageable. I wish millions of people knew that some of the joy in their lives comes from the fact that Sonia Sanchez is writing poetry.”

                                                                                                                                Maya Angelou


“The poetry of Sonia Sanchez is full of power and yet always clean and uncluttered. It makes you wish you had thought those thoughts, felt those emotions, and above all, expressed them so effortlessly and so well.”

                                                                                                                                Chinua Achebe


“Sanchez’s powers of empathy shine with rare luminosity.”

                                                                                                Paula Friedman, The Philadelphia Inquirer 


“At 77, Sonia Sanchez represents the double completion in Kemetic wisdom.”

Ghelawdewos Araia, Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA)  



All Rights Reserved. Copyright © IDEA, Inc. 2011. Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia is professor of African Studies at Lehman College (CUNY) and professor of International Studies at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). He can be contacted for educational and constructive feedback via dr.garaia@africanidea.org