A Son of Harlem, Music, and Poetry: Sekou Sundiata
edited: Saturday, July 21, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, July 20, 2007
Become a Fan
A Harlem Poet's Blue Dream of Life
“…I remember coming out of the undertow,
the oceans, the seas, the electricity, the explosions,
billions of us crashing into waves,
then blown away into memory.”
--Sekou Sundiata, from “Philosophy of the Cool”
I was working on the edits for The American Poet Who Went Home Again, a book of creative nonfiction that explores the last two decades of my life in the city of Savannah, Georgia, when I received notice from Louis Reyes Rivera, that our brother poet Sekou Sundiata (August 22, 1948-July 18, 2007) had died the previous day.
I wanted to avoid sliding into thoughts of things like how grateful I was that another poet, named Sistah V, had introduced me to Sundiata’s lyrically incandescent works several years ago. Nor did I want to consider how just last night my former ESSENCE Magazine poetry editor, Angela Kinamore, and I were on the phone talking about how poets in our country are finally growing into their own with the laborious bloody birth of this new twenty-first century.
That growth is something in which Sundiata––through his recorded works, staged productions, classes he taught, and sponsored events––had played a major role for the past three decades. And I didn’t want to think about how useless now were any plans I had entertained to one day embrace this son of Harlem (New York City), Music, and Poetry to thank him for igniting his soul like a comet and sending it to blaze such powerfully soulful and brilliant pathways through contemporary poetry.
What I needed was to find my copy of his CD, The Blue Oneness of Dreams, play it loud and celebrate his celebration of the beauty of words empowered by musical traditions like jazz, the blues, and gospel. Listening to him could help me to better hear my own voice and measure with greater accuracy my intentions and purposes as a writer and human being. So listen I did, and from his Harlem-smooth voice on the very first poem, “Shout Out,” received precisely the kind of affirmation––of his poetic vision as well as my own––for which I had hoped:
“Here’s to the best words
at the right place
at the perfect time
to the human mind
blown up and refined.
To long conversations
on the philosophical ramifications
of a beautiful day.”
--Sekou Sundiata, from the poem SHOUT OUT
At first read, it might seem like a respectable enough yet ordinary mantra for a poet of Sundiata’s cultural integrity. When looking at the man’s life, and learning something of how he literally transformed his battle with kidney failure into a work of performance art, how he transformed whatever social, political, spiritual, and biological agonies that visited his life into small hymns of triumphant creative action, or how he gathered struggling poets beneath his literary wings and helped them learn to soar by sharing his own heroic flight, that mantra becomes a quietly spectacular self-contained revolution.
There’s no way for me to overlook the startling ironic parallel that while I was writing about one kind of journey back home, Sundiata was performing a different kind. The realization did not allow me to wallow in self-pity at all. It instead pushed me to honor something I had nearly forgotten and of which Sundiata now reminded me. As human beings, we are born to undertake journeys that may end as easily in brutal infamy as they may in quiet honor. As poets, we are reborn to discover the meanings inherent in those journeys, and through the music of our words, the rhythm of our determination, and the shimmer of what we claim as our souls, we try to help the world to do the same.
Web Site: The Black Skylark Z-Ped Music Player
Want to review or comment on this article?
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!
|Reviewed by Andre Bendavi ben-YEHU
This article, "A Son of Harlem, Music, and Poetry: Sekou Sundiata" brought
a sad moment, but it also confirms a glorious poetic time... We lost the flesh presence of a Poet, but his works enriches the treasure of Poetry.
Thank You for sharing this article.
In gratitude and admiration,
Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU
|Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader)
|Thank you for introducing me to Sekou Sundiata. I read of his passing this morning. I don't know of his works, but will look up his work, What you have quoted shows a beautiful, caring soul. He was much to young and gifted to leave this planet, but then, special people seem to be doing that lately.
|Reviewed by Tinka Boukes
|Thank you for sharing Aberjhani!!
|Reviewed by Susan Sonnen
|Aberjhani, your sensitivity and grace shine as you have shown us his did. Thank you for introducing me to this poet.
|Reviewed by Susan de Vegter
|You've embraced this gentle, artistic courageous and insightful man. I'd bet my life, at this very moment, your own writing will have captured the treasures of him....into your own pens. It's always a part of living when a part of the generosity of a spirit can still move with another mind. You are an awesome man, Aberjhani. I believe tomorrow....you will have grown.
|Reviewed by Sage Sweetwater
|Mentioning the Horn of African nations which could achieve somewhat in music and poetry by putting aside their weapons and temper both ethnic and religious differences to become one people, bound by a shared national identity will allow them to indeed grow into "their own with the laborious bloody birth of this new twenty-first century." Zaire, Uganda, and Kenya. In this reader's eyes, there is no peace without development of the quill, and there is no quill without peace. War and poverty is quick to destroy the development of creativity of any kind. We can't have the poet's quill constrained by the gunmen nor poverty nor dictatorship governments. Many of these young children were indeed born as poets, but the opportunity is obliterated by war and poverty;sad. Nomads have no schools. Children only learn about their clan from what they memorize of their lineage back to the founder of their African clan. These people have all fought together in the trenches and died in one another's arms, so surely, in a renaissance of brotherhood, they can join in hands and quill poems and songs to the beat of the peace drum and embrace one another in brotherly and sisterly arms. The unity of creativity has to be carried beyond war and know of a brother's life from his birth to his death - what Sekou Sundiata from Harlem, New York has achieved for his people to share with the rest of the world. To make a good, creative life, one only needs peace and rain. The journey can only be "reborn to discover the meanings" by filling the cups and bowls five times a day with milk, porridge, oatmeal, beans, oil, and sugar, and putting quill to precious paper five times a day so these young poets can even be called "struggling poets." To even live long enough to get the chance to be called a "struggling poet" is "the rhythm of our determination, and the shimmer of what we claim as our souls, we try to help the world to do the same." Condolences, Aberjhani on the loss of a brother...Blessed Be.
A moment of silence (Sage Sweetwater)
poet Sekou Sundiata (August 22, 1948-July 18, 2007)
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|Reviewed by Karen Vanderlaan
|a wonderfully written tribute summed up beautifully in your own words.."As human beings, we are born to undertake journeys that may end as easily in brutal infamy as they may in quiet honor. As poets, we are reborn to discover the meanings inherent in those journeys, and through the music of our words, the rhythm of our determination, and the shimmer of what we claim as our souls, we try to help the world to do the same. You shine sir, the write is lovely