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Sekou Sundiata was born on this date in 1948. He was a Black poet and teacher who wrote for the intersectionality of communicating print, performance, music, and theater.
Born Robert Feaster in Harlem, NY, he changed his name to Sekou Sundiata in the late 1960s to honor his African heritage. He taught at New York City's New School. Famous students include musicians Ani DiFranco and Mike Doughty. Sundiata graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from the City College of New York in 1972 before completing a master's degree in creative writing from the City University of New York.
His plays include "The Circle Unbroken is a Hard Bop," "The Mystery of Love," "Udu, and "The 51st Dream State." He also released several albums, including "Long story short" and "The Blue Oneness of Dreams." "The Blue Oneness of Dreams" was nominated for a Grammy Award. Sundiata's works combined poetry, music, and drama. His musical influences included jazz, blues, funk, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. He has worked closely with Craig Harris on works such as "Udu," about slavery in modern Mauritania, and "The Circle Unbroken," a Hard Bop about African Americans reaching adulthood in the 1960s.
Sundiata based his one-man show "Blessing the Boats" on experiences of drug addiction, a car crash, and a kidney transplant from a friend. He toured the show around the United States and internationally. Sundiata has several recorded works to his credit. His first recording, "The Blue Oneness of Dreams," was nominated for a Grammy. He toured with Ani DiFranco on her Rhythm and News tour in 2001, and his "long story short" album was released on DiFranco's Righteous Babe label.
His work, "The 51st Dream State," featured music, dance, video, and poetry about the responses to the September 11, 2001, attacks. After a performance at the Melbourne Festival, the show was performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in November 2006. Sundiata's work was featured on HBO's "Def Poetry" series and PBS's "The Language of Life."
He has been a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellow, a Columbia University Revson Fellow, and a Master Artist-in-Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (Florida), the first Writer-in-Residence at the New School University, and he was a Lambent Fellowship in the Arts Fellow. Sundiata was also a professor at Eugene Lang College in New York City.
Sekou Sundiata died of heart failure in New York on July 18, 2007.
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