Legendary poet and peace advocate Dr. Sonia Sanchez was honored by Clark Atlanta University (CAU), as part of their 2015 Founders Week Celebration. Dr. Sanchez was part of a three-day celebration, hosted by the Department of Africana Women’s Studies, African American Studies, and History (AWH) that included an authors panel, a master class, and a peace benches ceremony and dedication.
During the ceremony, remarks were offered by CAU President Dr. Carlton E. Brown, Dr. Stephanie Evans, Chair of the Department of Africana Women’s Studies, African American Studies, and History (AWH) at Clark Atlanta University, Dr. John H. Bracey, Chair of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Dr. R. Candy Tate, Assistant Director of the Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts.
Dr. Brown discussed the importance of Dr. Sanchez’s work and poetry in activism. “The power of the word to redefine the world and to redefine our thoughts about ourselves is paramount,” said Dr. Brown. Dr. Bracey discussed how he had met Dr. Sanchez, the importance of peace and shared how Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, who taught for two decades at Clark Atlanta University and Dr. Sanchez, who also taught at Temple University for two decades, were admonished for pursuing peace. “The only time DuBois got arrested in his life was for peace. They took him to jail at 83-years-old. Sonia was arrested at an army recruitment center, ” Dr. Bracey stated. He then offered a haiku: “Let us lock up war and see what happens.”
Current CAU History graduate students (Victoria Coleston-Brooks, Lauren Hubbard, La’Neice Littleton and Courtney Terry) read poems from Dr. Sanchez’s works and Dr. Daniel Black performed a tribute poem that he wrote for Dr. Sanchez, entitled, “Because She Wrote,” which brought down the house. Black spoke of Dr. Sanchez’s mentorship simply stating, “My mentor is a writer and now I’m a writer.”
CAU art major Denisha Claxton presented a Haile Audin painting to Dr. Sanchez as part of the ceremony. Dr. R. Candy Tate stated, “The Black Arts movement is more than a moment in time. It has branches and reaches out into communities. Art is about legacy.”
Dr. Sanchez then took the stage, offered her thanks and presented poems from her books Homegirls and Handgrenades, Like Singing Coming Off the Drums, Does Your House Have Lions, Shake Loose My Skin, Morning Haiku and SOS: Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader.
Dr. Sanchez spoke about peace throughout her poems, stating that, “Peace is a human right.”
Dr. Stephanie Evans, who hosted the event, talked about the relationship between the peace benches and Dr. Sanchez’s work. Dr. Evans said, “These peace benches represent something that is concrete, foundational and a physical manifestation of our core values.” She added, “Sonia Sanchez’s work helps to shape our core values.”
After the presentation, attendees proceeded to the CAU Residential Quadrangle where the peace benches dedication ceremony was led by Dr. Daniel Black. The peace benches feature haikus by world-renowned poets and authors including Dr. Sanchez.
This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site the Burton Wire. She is currently a Visiting Professor of New Media and Journalism in the Department of Mass Media Arts at Clark Atlanta University. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire.