Poet Sanchez advocates peace, activism at Leon Forrest talk

Poet and activist Sonia Sanchez spoke Thursday in Fisk Hall as part of Black History month programming. The African American Studies department and Northwestern University Black Alumni association sponsored the talk.

Melody Song/The Daily Northwestern

Poet and activist Sonia Sanchez spoke Thursday in Fisk Hall as part of Black History month programming. The African American Studies department and Northwestern University Black Alumni association sponsored the talk.

Sarah Tassoni, Reporter

Poet and activist Sonia Sanchez spoke at Northwestern on Thursday evening about promoting peace and encouraging young people to take action for what they want.

Sanchez, who taught at Temple University and has authored 16 books, recited a prepared speech and a poem to an audience of more than 100 people from NU and Evanston in Fisk Hall. A question-and-answer session, book signing and live music followed. The event was part of the Leon Forrest lecture series and was sponsored by African American studies and the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association.

She began the talk by discussing the need for young people to participate in activism, using the students able to attend universities like NU as an example.

“You cannot lay back and assume that someone wants something from you,” Sanchez said. “You are here because people laid down their lives for you.”

She emphasized peace by talking about when she helped to set up a peace mural with haikus, pictures of children from different races and benches. Sanchez said she wanted to extend these “peace sites” to Washington, D.C.

She also related the theme of peace to America’s political system, citing numerous debates that can hold up legislation.

“We the people can also suggest that they go home,” she said, referring to when politicians bicker.

Sanchez also emphasized the importance of forgiveness as an alternative to becoming involved in fights. When she worked at Temple University, Sanchez taught a night class in one of the dorms about “a history of why we do not kill each other.” To go off of that, she proposed a week-long assignment for students to not say anything negative about others.

Tasha Nemo, an Evanston resident in the audience, said she found Sanchez’s presentation “intriguing.”

“I liked that the speech was basically a poem,” Nemo said. “I was touched by the thought of forgiveness as moving forward.”

Sanchez also encouraged audience members to challenge situations that do not seem right and to always ask questions, not just with government officials but also in academic environments.

“You need to challenge everybody on this campus, people,” she said.

To conclude the event, Sanchez recited a poem she wrote connecting peace to the five senses.

Weinberg senior Orie Simpson said she enjoyed Sanchez’s humor, which elicited much laughter from audience members.

“I liked the poetry, the audience’s reaction and the environment,” Simpson said.

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