Third Annual Sekou Sundiata Evening of Spoken Word & Poetry

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Internationally acclaimed poet, playwright and activist Shailja Patel will host MCLA’s third annual Evening of Spoken Word and Poetry, which will be dedicated to the life and work of the great poet and performer, Sekou Sundiata. The event will feature students from MCLA and Williams College and will take place on Friday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m., in MCLA Gallery 51 on Main Street as part of the college’s MCLA Presents! performance series.

Sundiata was an African American activist, internationally known for his poetry, performance, music and theater. He became a teacher at The New School in New York City where he taught famous musicians, such as Ani DiFranco and Mike Doughty. He was known for his iconic voice, ability to understand the human soul and his honesty.

Sundiata was a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellow, a Columbia University Revson Fellow and the recipient of a Lambent Fellowship in the Arts. He was featured in the Bill Moyers’ PBS series on poetry, “The Language of Life,” and as part of Russell Simmons’ “Def Poetry Jam” on HBO. The night will reflect Sundiata’s life work by starting off with some videos of his performance. Then, MCLA and Williams College students will read their own poetry in dedication to him.

Patel, trained as a political economist, accountant and yoga teacher, was born and raised in Kenya, but has lived in both London and San Francisco. She divides her time between Nairobi and Berkeley and her poetic and performance skills have received critical acclamation on three continents. Patel will begin the Evening of Spoken Word and Poetry and speak throughout the night. According to the Gulf Times, Patel is “the poetic equivalent of Arundhati Roy.” CNN called her “the face of globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of migration and exchange.”

Patel is the recipient of a Sundance Theater Fellowship, an African Guest Writer Fellowship from the Nordic Africa Institute and the Fanny-Ann Eddy Poetry Award from IRN- Africa. Her work has been translated into 12 languages and she has appeared on the BBC World Service, as well as NPR.

The night will consist of 11 students reading poetry and spoken word. Aurora Cooper, Christine Pavao, Jason
Peabody, Nicole Braden and Paul Miranda will participate from MCLA. From Williams, members of the campus’ “SpeakFree club” also will participate. They are David Kruger, Lillian Podlog, Paul Adeleke, Shaan Amin, Soraya Membreno and Tirhakah Love.

MCLA student Melody Rolph, co-producer of MCLA Presents! said: “The night should have a great atmosphere as it will be full of a diverse group of poets and spoken word artists who are excited to share their thoughts. It will be wonderful to bring together both MCLA and Williams College for a night dedicated to someone who had such a great impact on the people around him. It is also a great honor to have Shailja, such a renowned poet and activist join us on this night. I am really looking forward to a laid-back evening full of remembrance and various social commentaries.”

This evening is co-presented with Williams College’s Stalwart Originality: New Traditions in Black Performance and MCLA’s English department. MCLA Presents! is a program of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), a collaborative project with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the City of North Adams. The BCRC provides professional development training, resources and support to the artists, art managers and creative workers of Berkshire County. Through its multiple programs and presentations, BCRC brings the best of performance and art to the Berkshires and showcases the best of the Berkshires to the world.

Tickets to the Sekou Sundiata Evening of Spoken Word and Poetry are $10 for general admission. Tickets for MCLA alumni are $8, $5 for MCLA and Williams staff and faculty, and members and students from both MCLA and Williams are free. For tickets, call 413-662-5204. For information, call 413-664-8718, or go to
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