The poet and musician Sekou Sundiata was a professor at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts for more than 20 years. Inspired by jazz, blues, and Afro-Caribbean music, Sundiata’s poems and performances dealt with major events, both personal (heroin addiction and poor health) and in the wider world (the September 11 attacks). Sundiata influenced many young musicians during his time here, including The Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron, Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty, and Ani DiFranco, who once told the Associated Press that Sundiata “taught me everything I know about poetry.”
Next week, The New School will take part in a citywide celebration of the legacy of Sundiata, who died in 2007 at 58 years old. The event, “Blink Your Eyes: Sekou Sundiata Revisited,” is a collaboration between over 50 artists, educational institutions and 18 cultural organizations, including Lincoln Center, Harlem Stage, the Apollo Theater and Summer Stage at Central Park.
On April 2, The New School will host the festival’s kickoff event: SEKOU SUNDIATA: WRITER/TEACHER/ARTIST/ACTIVIST. It will be a conversation exploring how Sundiata successfully crossed social, civic, and educational boundaries to “create dangerously.” The panel discussion will be moderated by David Scobey, executive dean, The New School for Public Engagement. Panelists include Julie Ellison, professor of American Culture, English, and Art and Design at the University of Michigan; Richard Harper, assistant professor, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music; Gladstone Fluney Hutchinson, associate professor of Economics at Lafayette College; and Brian Lewis, former student of Sundiata and current New School professor.
The event is free, but seating is limited. Reservations are required; make them by visiting blinkyoureyessekousundiatadialogue.eventbrite.com.