The World Mourns Passing of Poet Icon-Sekou Sundiatta
Hello Poetry Lovers,
Today I received sorrowful news about the sudden passing of literary great Sekou Sundiatta. Upon researching great men in literature for a book called Literary Dons: The Top 100+ Most Admired African American Men in Literature, I requested from my producers of the Literary Living Television Show (www.blackfamilychannel.com) to permit me the opportunity to meet Sekou Sundiatta in person during one of his performances at the Aaron Davis Hall, for I had missed interviewing him myself for the show.
Magic filled the air as Sekou Sundiatta, a tall distinguished man with smooth charcoal skin owning the mystique of the late Miles Davis approached the stage with a swarthy- tan leather jacket.
His performance captivated the audience and left an everlasting impact on my reviews of poetry as a book critic ever since. For I have used his poetry as a template for what constitutes great poetry . If you hear Mr. Sundiatta’s work, you will understand.
Poetry is personal and much deeper than one’s feelings against the injustices of the world, but rather how one encompasses the world to make it better with one’s actions. From what I witnessed on the day I met Sekou, was a GREAT MAN, perhaps larger than life. He helped so many poets launch their journeys and gave voice to many spoken word artists.
One group whose performance was phenomenal was Universes. Sekou Sundiatta declined an interview with me one-to-one so that I would have ample time to interview Universes. This is how selfless this poet was.
He always put others before himself until he could give no more, and on July 18th, his life ended, but will live on through the people’s lives he touched.
I felt it was my responsibility to spread the word, so this post will be published on the Disilgold.com Literary Dish Syndicate. May Sekou rest in peace. His faraway stare remains forever etched in my mind like a torch has been passed on to me to carry on his legacy, and thus let it be that I give rise to a new nation of poets, their books and voices that have been hidden in an underworld due to sheer ignorance of media who does not understand the art form and too self- absorbed to expose real poets of this era…..
THIS IS THE DAY, January 19th, the day after the passing of a poetry icon… and I promise Sekou’s life with what little I know of this legend (RIP), but of his performance and support of a nation of poets, will not be in vain.
I dedicate HOLLER: Heather on Literary Lives of Excellence Revisted: The Poetry Anthology of a Decade Project (DISILGOLD, 2009) in honor of Sekou Sundiatta, and I will not be ashamed to promote this work in his honor and the poets he motivated…
Here is a letter from the estate from the group, UNIVERSES… and following a very personal letter from Bruce George, one of the greatest spoken word artists of our era who made it possible for poets like J.IVY, SHOLOVE DA POETIC, PROLIFIC TIM, & EBONY WASHINGTON to battle on the MIC for the Aretha Franklin is Waiting Award judged by Nikki Giovanni on BET’S LYRIC’S LOUNGE.
We regret to inform that our dear Sekou has passed. Today, there are no words. It is a devastating loss for us and the poetry community but even more so for his family. Please keep them in your prayers.
An official statement from the family:
At 5:47 AM on Wednesday, July 18, 2007, my beloved Sekou Sundiata passed away.
On behalf of Sekou and his family, thank you all for your expressions of love and support and for your prayers. Cards can be sent to 296 Stuyvesant Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11221
Details regarding funeral arrangements and donations will be forthcoming.
Maurine (Kazi) Knighton
Be thankful that we knew him. He blessed us with his voice, his words told our stories, and his energy lit a room the moment he stepped into it. Be grateful. Celebrate his life and expect that we will see him again, one day.
Mildred, Steven, Gamal, Ninja
FROM THE DESK OF BRUCE GEORGE
Sekou Sundiata who was a Poet, Activist, playwright, professor etc.. made his transition (passed away) this morning.
Sekou Sundiata was a poet who wrote for print, performance, music and theater. In collaboration with composer Craig Harris, he wrote and performed in several acclaimed theater works. His latest recording, Long Story Short, was released on Righteous Babe Records. He has been a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellow, a Columbia University Revson Fellow, a Master Artist-in-Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (Florida) and the first Writer-in-Residence at the New School University in New York. A professor at Eugene Lang College, Sekou was featured in the Bill Moyers PBS series on poetry, “The Language of Life.”
Sundiata’s words reach their full power when spoken aloud in his commanding baritone and his concerts are almost always driven by a live band consisting of highly regarded players from the worlds of jazz and R&B.
Predating (but still informed by) the current generation’s embrace of hip-hop, Sundiata came of age as an artist during the Black Arts/Black Aesthetic movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His first album, The Blue Oneness of Dreams, and its successor, longstoryshort, are both rich with the sounds of blues, funk, jazz, and African and Afro-Caribbean percussion. Sekou was a literature teacher at New York City’s New School, Sundiata’s influence is felt both in and out of the classroom. Singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco declares that Sundiata “taught me everything I know about poetry.” No matter what outlet he selects for any given undertaking — theater, classroom, book, or
album — Sundiata brings many years of intelligence, craftsmanship, and intensity to the endeavor.
Critic Greg Tate of The Village Voice says Sundiata, “is the conduit through which the direct lineage of Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka, Gil-Scott Heron, and the Last Poets shall be maintained. Here is a writer with the bluesy poetic grasp, historical insight, and populist spirit to reach the bourgeois, seminar the politically correct, and still rock the boulevard.”
Co-presented with the U-M Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives
Media Partners: WEMU 89.1 FM and Michigan Chronicle/Front Page
Sekou Sundiata previous UMS appearances: Sekou Sundiata first appeared in 2003 in both blessing the boats (three performances) and with his band.
More Information: http://www.righteousbabe.com/artists/sekou/index.asp
Sekou will be dearly missed. Those up and coming performance poets owe it to the craft to study his work. Write On! Sekou. Rest In Peace!