When she was reached recently at her home in Philadelphia, poet/activist Sonia Sanchez was freshly back from a performance and getting ready to embark on another. Such is the life of one of the nation’s foremost troubadours and griots; she’s always on the move, in the process of accumulating even more memories.
Some of those memories have been collected and captured on film by director Jamal Joseph, in a film entitled “Shake Loose Memories,” which will be shown at Columbia University, where Joseph is a former chair of the film program.
“Lately, I’ve been consumed with the business of what to do with my property in Harlem,” she said. “For years, I’ve had an apartment in the Lenox Terrace, but now with my father having made his transition, I have to make a decision on how to handle it.”
None of those negotiations, she promised, will interfere with her presence at Columbia. “Jamal and Voza Rivers of New Heritage Films and others who worked on the production have done a fabulous job and I can’t commend them enough,” enthused the Harlem-born wordsmith.
Here is what one critic had to say about “Shake Loose Memories” when it was screened at the Empire Theater last fall. “Superbly complementing the filmed performances was a fascinating trove of archival footage and photos that highlighted the poet’s remarkable but always challenged odyssey.
“Stanzas of her poetry flowed in front of musicians, dancers and other wordsmiths, most rewardingly with Amiri Baraka and Oscar Brown Jr.,” the critic continued. “Her performance with Brown, who died shortly after this engagement in May 2005, was a delightful duet, as Brown interwove his ‘Afro Blue’ against Sanchez’s chants and ululations, with them ending simultaneously on an earthy blue note.”
But you should judge for yourself, if you’re not already convinced of Sanchez’s mesmerizing gifts and creative genius. The film will be shown Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Miller Theater on the Columbia campus at Broadway and 116th Street. Admission is free; for reservations, call (212) 926-2550.