12. Sonia Sanchez: A Word Sorcerer Who’s Always BaddDDD

Sonia Sanchez is being celebrated in a new documentary. Photo: Erika Vonie

Sonia Sanchez is being celebrated in a new documentary. Photo: Erika Vonie

One of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, beloved poet Sonia Sanchez is still speaking out for women and her community at 81. A new documentary about her life, BaddDDD, was released this year and is named after her legendary early collection We a BaddDDD People.

Born Wilsonia Benita Driver in 1934 during the height of the Great Depression in Birmingham, Ala., the poet, activist and scholar has always freely expressed her thoughts, challenging others to do the same. She helped to push for black studies at what later became San Francisco State University, setting the stage for the rest of the country.

“Sonia’s poetry still cuts,” Talib Kweli says in the documentary, pointing out how the revolutionary nature of her work has stood the test of time.

She never had to serve as a bridge to the hip-hop generation, because she has always embraced and respected the voices of others who are doing something meaningful with their creativity. She has inspired many spoken word and other artists, many of whom revere her.

Award-winning and prolific across genres, she has created plays such as Malcolm Man/Don’t Live Here No Mo’ and edited two anthologies: We Be Word Sorcerers: Twenty-five Stories by Black Americans and Three Hundred Sixty Degrees of Blackness Comin’ at You. Her 16 books range from Homegirls & Handgrenades to the Adventures of Fat Head, Small Head, and Square Head for children.

Sister-poet Maya Angelou once said: “Sonia Sanchez is a lion in literature’s forest. When she writes she roars, and when she sleeps other creatures walk gingerly.”

Sanchez encourages artists to be fearless, but she will boo those who disrespect women — loudly. She remains staunchly dedicated to the truth,

“It’s the only thing that will save your lives, my dear brothers and sisters,” she said recently, “is to tell the truth.”