BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez: Celebrating the Work of an Iconic Wordsmith and Activist

By A.J. Muhammad, Librarian III
August 9, 2019
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Sonia Sanchez

Photograph by William Farrington 

There’s always a reason to celebrate Sonia Sanchez! The award-winning African American poet, activist, educator, and mentor to generations of artists—who is in her eighth decade—is as outspoken and passionate as ever about social justice, human rights, literature, and the performing arts. Sanchez can still be seen at live events reciting her poetry, a declarative call to action and resistance. She currently serves as the Ambassador for the Schomburg Society, a membership group comprised of donors from around the world who support the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture's mission to collect and preserve materials that document the global black experience.

Sanchez, whose voice came to prominence during the Black Arts Movement, has been an inspiring and enduring presence at the Schomburg Center for decades. She has often spoken about her introduction to the center—then known as the Schomburg Collection at the 135th St. Library—and a chance encounter with its chief librarian, Jean Blackwell Hutson, which proved to be transformative for Sanchez.

At that time, Sanchez was a recent college graduate and quickly found a home at the Schomburg Center, as did many artists, activists, and scholars and, in the process, learned about African American and African diasporan history. This knowledge has been a bedrock of  Sanchez' writings. She reflected on her first time visiting the Schomburg Collection in a talk with Schomburg Center Director Kevin Young at the Center’s inaugural Literary Festival in the summer of 2019.

Sonia Sanchez has infused African American Vernacular English (or AAVE) and musicality into her poetry and other work. For many readers, engaging with her poems is a sensual experience. Sanchez has experimented with form and is known for her exploration of the haiku, which originated in Japan, and has introduced haikus to a new audience of readers.

Here, we are highlighting some of her best-known collections of poetry and work in other genres.   

Sonia Sanchez Poetry

Morning Haiku (2010)

 

Drama by Sonia Sanchez

Like many Black Arts Movement peers, Sanchez was proficient in different literary genres including drama. A compilation of her plays—including Sister Son/ji and The Bronx is Next—can be found in the 2010 collection I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue When I Ain’t and Other Plays,

 

Other Works

Sonia Sanchez has also penned titles for young readers including It's A New Day: Poems For Young Brothas and SistuhsA Sound Investment and The Adventures of Fathead, Smallhead, and Squarehead.

A series of interviews with Sanchez was published under the 2007 title Conversations with Sonia Sanchez.  

Devotees of Sanchez can listen to an audio recording of an interview that is part of the Hatch-Billops collection, which contains interviews with dozens of black influential artists, available in the Schomburg Center’s Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division.

On "A Sun Woman For All Seasons Reads Her Poetry," a rare recording from 1971 during the height of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez reads from her work.

Sanchez was the subject of a moving 2015 documentary, BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, which chronicles her life’s journey of using art to advocate for marginalized people, while balancing motherhood and being a full-time college professor. 

Sanchez also edited the anthology Three Hundred and Sixty Degrees of Blackness Comin At You, the product of a writers workshop she conducted at the Countee Cullen Library for one year in the early 1970s. Most recently, Sanchez co-edited the anthology SOS - Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader

With Sanchez being so prolific, it's no surprise her body of work is the focus of a journal, B. Ma: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review, dedicated to scholarly analyses of Sanchez' writings.

Have a favorite Sonia Sanchez poem or other writing? Share your favorites in the comments below and tell us which are a must-read!