Sekou Sundiata on music, poetry, East Harlem and activism

In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo's "The Writing Life", poet and cultural historian E. Ethelbert Miller talks with poet and jazz musician Sekou Sundiata. Both men grew up in East Harlem housing projects, and Sundiata says the many cultures and voices of that neighborhood are heard in his poetry. The "citizen poet," as Sundiata calls himself, arose in the 1960s and 1970s, when he started writing activist poetry, poetry that appeals democratically to many. Sundiata explains that he and his band arrange the music and the poetry he authors in a synergistic way. "Poetry is part of the music itself," Sundiata says. The music and rhythms of the black church experience, as well as blues, affect his work, he says. "For me, the blues is a philosophical stance." His poetic influences include Gil Scott Heron, Amiri Baraka and Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose "Naked History" album is poetry and music people can live with, a goal Sundiata looks to attain with his own work.
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