Sonia Sanchez. More than likely you know her name and her work. If you don’t, there’s a new film entitled “SONIA SANCHEZ: SHAKE LOOSE MEMORIES.” I recently attended an advanced screening for this revealing, poignant and timely body of work that celebrates Ms. Sanchez, also known as the “Mother of the Spoken Word.” Influencing many of today’s rappers and spoken word artists from Tupac, Jill Scott, Mos Def, to the performances of her live shows of “The Full Moon of Sonia”, this production will leave the viewer fulfilled with a sense of clarity about Ms. Sanchez. Many recognize her as the “Mother of the Spoken Word” because she was the first as a poet with jazz musicians.
In her own words
“Her poetry is full of power and yet always clear and uncluttered. It makes you wish you had those thoughts, felt those emotions, and above all, expressed them so effortlessly and so well” – Chinua Achebe
This amazing film is a testament to the richness of the 60’s and 70’s and how powerful Ms. Sanchez’s work then, and how it stays important today. Shot in Hi-Def. this is truly a musical and poetic journey through her life, art and activism. She is and has been a poetry icon, professor emeritus at Temple University, co-founder of the Black Arts Movement, pioneer of the Black studies program at San Francisco State, and tireless fighter for human rights. Yet, she remains a person of vulnerability and strength which is evident in her body or works. As a poet, teacher and activist, she delves into the regions of her life only a few knew and cared about. As a “cine poem”, the film allows Ms. Sanchez weaves together her story, discussing her life as a mother, artist, abused child and revolutionary. Ms. Sanchez’s life is woven with the rich tapestry of life’s experiences as she tells us about her marriages, her children, her introduction to Malcolm X and the original Panther movement.
A personal look
“I met Sonia Sanchez in 1970 in Harlem when I was a sixteen-year-old Black Panther, free on bail on the New Panther 21 case,” says Jamal Joseph, the film’s Director. “She was performing poetry at a fundraiser for political prisoners. She was dynamic, beautiful, uncompromising, tender, strong, fiery, cool, with a voice and poetic flow that had the melodiousness of Betty Carter and the intensity if John Coltrane’s sax. I was blown away!”
The film cuts between archival footage, interviews and current concert performances. It was a time of Amiri Barak and the Last Poets, when the Black Movement was finding it’s own voice, the Ms. Sanchez did more than stand out. She stood strong, she stood tall, and she stood for something. The first to recognize and mentor her talent was James Baldwin as we now know as Amiri Baraka. She recognizes and acknowledges how he helped take her poetry to the next level. To validate how consistently important Sonia has been to the history of Black America, the filmed live performances are both riveting and electrifying at the same time, and interspersed with such special guests as Amiri Baraka, T.C. Carson, Toshi Regan and Oscar Brown, Jr. Ironically, this is Oscar’s last live performance. He passed away the next month after the concert.
New Heritage Films
The cine-poem was a 5-year labor of love by New Heritage Films, produced by Executive Producer Voza Rivers, Director/Producer Jamal Joseph and Producer Rachel Wattanabe-Batton. New Heritage Films is an award-winning non-profit film production and education organization that produces and presents films about the Black, Latino and grassroots experience in unique ways. Drive By: A Love Story, A-ALIKE, Hughes’ Dream Harlem, and Sonia Sanchez: Shake Loose Memories are some of the collective films they have produced and co-produced.
Sonia Sanchez: SHAKE LOOSE MEMORIES touches on how Ms. Sanchez has chosen to live her life as a contribution to America as a whole. There’s so much to tell and so much to say about her life and this film, but the most important thing is you go see it. Whether you knew her/thought you knew her/want to know her, this cine-poem is a good start.