Executive Director of Split This Rock, Sarah Browning served as our MC for the first evening reading, held at the Carlos Rosario International School, a brisk walk up 11th Street from U. Street. The 2012 Split This Rock Festival is dedicated to the memory of poet, activist, teacher June Jordan. Sarah invoked June’s memory & that of Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, & the long list of other murdered black men & women throughout history, then played a recording of June reading one of her poems in the voice of Valentine Jones.
Sonia Sanchez reading? I didn’t audio or video record the reading (though the folks at Split This Rock did) & sometimes I was so enthralled I forgot to take notes. But there she was, “the conscience of poetry” as Sarah Browning described her, the Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, a giant hiding behind the lectern. She began expressing thanks for being “in this place called Washington DC” & with a commentary & a poem -- as throughout the edges were frequently blurred into one continuous stream of performance -- (“man is an alien in this world…”) reading for Trayvon Martin (as others have, & will, throughout the Festival) & another 17 year-old boy dead. “A Poem for Sterling Brown” was written after reading in The New York Times about a 3000 year-old mummy. A poem dedicated to the folks at Split This Rock on the themes of death, loss & words, wove in singing lines & scat-singing, lingo & sound words, like a voodoo ceremony in a Baptist Church. Then on to “Peace Poem for Maxine Green,” & a poem for her father & her brother, interrupting, or glossing, the stanzas with commentary. Her concluding performance started off recounting some of her conversations with June Jordan, as she came from behind the lectern, microphone in her hand, more scat & voodoo words, chanting, crouching, touching the stage, like a Shaman, ending with “JuneJuneJuneJune… JorJorJor… Done!”
Sonia Sanchez made the hammer ring tonight at Split This Rock.