BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, A Riveting Documentary about a Literary Lion

 

Image courtesy of Cinema Clock.

Image courtesy of Cinema Clock.

Sonia Sanchez is a lion in literature’s forest. When she writes she roars, and when she sleeps other creatures walk gingerly. ~ Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was spot on when she called Sonia Sanchez “a lion in literature’s forest.” From one literary giant to another, Sanchez is a force of nature. She’s a writer, poet, playwright, professor, and activist. A strong proponent of Black history, literature, and culture, women’s liberation, racial justice, and peace, Sanchez has inspired generations of writers, activists, and academics in the struggle.

If you’ve been following my blog, it’s no secret how much of an influence she’s had on me. So when I found out that the documentary BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez would be screened in DC on the opening night of the African Diaspora International Film Festival (“Where Black Life Matters On The Big Screen!”), I jumped at the opportunity to support it. And I’m so glad I did.

BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, a riveting documentary by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, celebrates Sanchez and her contributions as one of the most influential writers of the Black Arts Movement. It chronicles her life – the personal, professional, and the political. Interwoven throughout the documentary are Sanchez in her element–performing her work with a live jazz band, along with readings and commentary by Amiri Baraka (Rest in Power), Nikki Giovanni, Haki Madhubuti,Ursula Rucker, jessica Care moore, Ruby Dee (Rest in Power), Talib Kweli, and Ayana Mathis, to name a few. Their interpretations of her writing and what she means to the world showcase the tremendous beauty, power, magic, depth, and influence of her work.

One (of several) elements I loved about BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez is that it shows Sanchez–the artist–at work. This level of intimacy is something we don’t often get to see of creatives. Truly a treasure to behold. Leaves one wondering if what she was writing in the documentary ends up in her next volume of poetry. One can hope.

During the Q+A that followed the showing, Sanchez dropped several gems about the struggle and the importance of work. She said, “Nothing changes unless you work… You have to do the work.” This statement is so relevant to issues of personal and societal concern today. Entitlement doesn’t bring change or reward. If you want something in this life, you have to work for it. If it’s something that truly matters, playing your part is essential. Her words serve as a testament to why she and other artists of the Black Arts Movement are so significant. They not only created work that touched the hearts of many, but they also did the work that was critical to changing the world.

And what’s a better way to top off your night by speaking and taking a picture with one of your biggest inspirations?

Me with writer, poet, playwright, professor, and activist, Sonia Sanchez

Me with writer, poet, playwright, professor, and activist, Sonia Sanchez

Thank you Sonia Sanchez for your spirit, strides, and all the blessings you’ve given to the world. You are phenomenal!

If BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez is showing in your town, please go and support it. Also check the listings for your local PBS station, as there may be a showing in the near future.

Personal and educational copies of BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez can be rented or purchased from the California Newsreel site.

‘Free Angela,’ A Powerful Documentary

I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement. ~ Angela Davis, Frontline (1997)

Seeing the poster for Shola Lynch’s latest film Free Angela And All Political Prisoners is enough to evoke compelling and stirring emotions within anyone.  The image serves as a symbol of pride, justice, and changethe change that comes about from social and political movements.  And the film retells the events surrounding Angela Davis as she fought to clear her name against changes of murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy and the international movement which sought her freedom.

By the late 1960s, Davis was known as a feminist, political activist and leader, and scholar.  She was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), a member of the Communist Party USA and an associate of the Black Panther Party.   UCLA would later fire Davis because of her involvement with the Communist Party.  She was reinstated after Judge Jerry Pacht of the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that UCLA could not bar Communists from employment with its institution.  Not satisfied with this, UCLA began a relentless quest for ways in which to fire Davis.  They succeeded on June 20, 1970 citing what they claimed was “inflammatory language” derived from four unique speeches Davis had given.  

In August of 1970, Davis’ world would change again.  She was implicated as a suspect in the kidnapping and murder of a judge in a shootout at the Marin County, CA courthouse.  Davis did not believe she’d receive a fair trial so she fled California.  Believed to be a terrorist, J. Edgar Hoover placed Davis on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.  After a two-month manhunt, she was caught in New York City and brought to trial.  In 1972, Davis was acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury.

Free Angela comes at a time where we (continue to) find our world facing grave struggles with food/hunger, education, healthcare, employment, economic downturns, inadequate housing, the prison industrial complex, and civil rights.  With Angela Davis’ story, we learn about the significance of challenging authority and the power of the collective.  We must not deny or forget about our power as individuals or as a collective.  In fact, if it had not been for the mobilization of the collective during the Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, and Black Power Movements (to name a few) the social and political landscape would be quite different.

Free Angela is not only a (long overdue) firsthand account of Angela Davis’ htory, but it also serves as a call to action.  While we may have benefited from the battles won by our forefathers and foremothers, many obstacles lie ahead.  Their stories should serve as a sources hope, inspiration and redemption… Nothing in this world is impossible.  With collective power, we can ignite movements to bring about the social and political change necessary to make our world one that truly lives up to its promise.

Free Angela opens in selects theaters on Friday, April 5, 2013. 

Entry – Black Bloggers Connect Free Angela Blogging Contest