Department of African American Studies hosts famed poet and activist Jayne Cortez for Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Public Affairs lecture Feb. 2
Department of African American Studies hosts famed poet and activist Jayne Cortez for Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Public Affairs lecture Feb. 2January 24, 2006Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
The Department of African American Studies in The College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University will host the 23rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Public Affairs Lecture, Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will take place in Shemin Auditorium, in the Shaffer Art Building on the SU campus. This year’s speaker is Jayne Cortez, poet, activist and founder of the band The Firespitters.
“Jayne Cortez is a living example of what transformative activism is all about. She has used her skills as a creative artist and intellectual worker to mobilize locally, nationally and internationally for revolutionary change,” says Micere Githae Mugo, department chair and professor of African American studies. “A brilliant thinker, inspirational speaker and marvelous performer, she engages her audience in a very unique way.”
Cortez is the author of 10 books of poems and has made nine recordings of her poetry set to music. She has presented her works and ideas at universities, museums, and festivals around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the Berlin Jazz Festival; the Fourth World Congress on Women in Beijing, China; the Arts Alive International Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa; the Banlieues Blues Festival in France; and New York University.
Her poems have been translated into many languages and widely published in anthologies, journals and magazines, including Post Modern American Poetry, Daughters of Africa, Poems for the Millennium, The Jazz Poetry Anthology,Black Scholar, Presence Africaine and Mother Jones. She is the recipient of several awards, including honors from Arts International, the New York Foundation on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
An activist and organizer, Cortez is president of the Organization of Women Writers of Africa. She also coordinates the Yari Yari International Conference of Women Writers of African Descent at NYU, and directed the film, “Yari Yari: Black Women Writers and the Future.” Cortez organized the 1999 international symposium “Slave Routes: The Long Memory,” and participated in the round table “Dialogue Among Civilizations” at the U.N. Millennium Summit in 2000.
For more than two decades, Cortez has found a musical accompaniment to her poetry with the Firespitters. The eight-piece ensemble creates a jazz/blues sound accented by traditional African instruments. The group’s latest CD recordings are “Taking The Blues Back Home” and the forthcoming “Find Your Own Voice,” both produced by Harmolodic/Verve.
African American Studies professor Bill Cole has collaborated on numerous musical projects with Cortez. “Besides being an outstanding poet, she is a terrific organizer of events,” says Cole. “Her poetry speaks to contemporary times with the straightforwardness of an oncoming train. I have nothing but the utmost respect and love for her.”
Says Mugo: “In highlighting the work of Martin Luther King Jr. during Black History Month, we honor his legacy and the legacies of those who throughout history have championed racial equality, class equity, human rights, justice, peace and other forms of people’s empowerment. The lecture creates space for reflection as we recognize that these injustices still persist. Just as importantly, we celebrate a history of resistance, struggle and assertion of human dignity, painted upon the canvas of history by black and other oppressed people since time immemorial. Lastly, we challenge ourselves and our audience to engage in the kind of activism that will give rise to a new, humane world.”
A book signing and reception will follow in the Shaffer atrium. The lecture is co-sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, a principal unit within the Division of Student Affairs.
Paid parking is available in visitor lots. For more information, call the Department of African American Studies at 443-4302.