Panelists Sonia Sanchez, Tyrone Mitchell, Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Hermine Pinson filled the room with heartbreak and love, echoing ghosts of the past and harmonies of the present and future through their displayed work and an insight into their artistic strategies. That Friday night of March 24 was a reading and reception for the upcoming winter 2017, volume 17, issue 1 release of “Black Renaissance Noire Literature Magazine,” published by NYU’s Institute of African American Affairs.
Black Renaissance Noire presents the contemporary poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, art and photography of some of the most celebrated artists of our time. The journal addresses political issues and black concerns while celebrating cultural beauty and triumph. Its opening night was primarily devoted to the presentation of sculptures by Tyrone Mitchell and to poetry readings, including two of Sonia Sanchez’s haikus attributed to Emmett Till and Patrice Lumumba.
Mitchell’s sculptures are abstract and use various colors and materials — such as kuba cloth from the Congo — to tell stories.
“Artists tend to be idealists and in that way, express political ideals,” Mitchell said.
“I’m really trying to use as many things and methods in a piece as possible because it seems that the conversation becomes more intense,” Mitchell said. “It’s this effort to try to be more articulate with different languages as much as possible. Each one of them is kind of dealing with African and African-American reality.”
Sanchez shared the impacts of growing up in a family of musicians paired with her brother’s illness and eventual death from AIDS. She also outlined quirks and tactics that she uses to help her write.
“Many of us sleep with textbooks and notebooks under our pillows,” Sanchez said. “Or at least I do.”
She also discussed how rhythm and music have inspired her writing over the years.
“Here it is; here it be — I’m deconstructing these sounds, and I put them back together,” Sanchez said. “I have always heard music when I wrote.”
Sanchez surprised the audience with her scatting abilities, bursting into beats and sounds to express how rhythm is related to poetry. She explained the difference between writing in form and writing in free-verse.
“You really do have to understand form in order to understand free-verse,” Sanchez said. “Form will not deform you. Everything you write has form. You can smell it. You can taste it.”
Art provides expression and dialogue in both a political and aesthetic world. Black Renaissance Noire ensures that these expressions are collected and given to the world in a publication that is both celebratory and demanding of emotional movement and political action.
“Sometimes there’s stuff you can’t get out any other way,” Pinson said.
Black Renaissance Noire and the artists it represents inspire light through culture, beauty and hope. Sanchez used metaphors of that same light while reading a haiku to an audience of avid listeners, reminding everyone how storytellers communicate truth to the world.
“You are the sun’s power as it spreads,” Sanchez said.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 27 print edition.
Email Khrysgiana Pineda at [email protected]