Friday, July 20, 2007

The Passing of Sekou Sundiata

The morning of July 18, 2007 (just 2 days ago) the poet, artist, activist, intellectual, Sekou Sundiata, died of heart failure. I first met Sekou as part of an inter-disciplinary honors forum my class, "Mixed Race America" was taking part in. 2 other classes, all focused around issues of identity and race, to a large degree, met with him one night as he talked about his latest artistic piece, THE 51st DREAM STATE and led us in a discussion about race and citizenship and our post-9/11 world, sharing a particularly powerful anecdote about heading to the site of the twin towers a few weeks after they fell, and finding himself confronted with his own racial anxieties, prejudices, and fears, as he imagined a man heading towards him as one with Arab features--as someone who could be a terrorist--someone who could hurt him and countless others. But as the man came closer, his Middle-Eastern features morphed into a Latino man hurrying past him, up a flight of stairs, and Sekou realized that he had turned this Latino man into a terrorist -- coloring him with his fear and imagination, because of the state of terror he had internalized.

Sundiata was 58 years old. He will be missed. We need more poets to speak our fears and to adress, directly, our internalized racism and anxieties about the "other." I'm glad I got to meet him and to see him produce THE 51st DREAM STATE.

If you would like to hear a clip of Sundiata, go to this site:

Audio clip of Sekou

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