What does it mean to be human? | Sonia Sanchez | TEDxPhiladelphia

Tony Morrison said we die that may be the meaning of life but we do language that may be the measure of our lives and ideas just the twenty merits and how you do this thing called language the measure of our lives how you caress embrace untangle this language recapture our memory how you stand words up and that the mini read our blood how you help us recover our silver words as you open up the sorcery of language and take us out on your wings of laughter and pain intellect and beauty and love and we are one alive apart from the elasticity of the dead that's what we've all tried to do we writer as you know because in Japan it is said that the words of the soul reside in the spirit called kotodama or the spirit of words and the act of speaking words has the power to change the world that's what I've been doing trying to change this bloody world my sisters and my brothers you know that all these years with these poems that we did all these years with these speeches and all these years with example and all these years were teaching and I taught for 40 years and that's a long long time but I have and have had some amazing students brothers and sisters I traveled to Cuba for an International Writers Conference in the late 1970s after I had read a paper to an audience some of the officials asked me if I wanted anything I said yes I would like to meet the great Cuban poet nicolรกs guillรฉn they stared at me said he wasn't feeling well said they tried to arrange it two hours later they gathered me up and as I entered his office he was standing in the middle of the room feet planted on Cuban Earth legs no longer strong but arms strong like Elizabeth countless black women's arms and he said Sonia Sonia Sanchez Como Langston Como Langston Hughes and I smiled a smile of recognition folded myself and his arms and he heard me so hard that I couldn't breathe and I thought hold it I didn't come all this way to die in Cuba and then I realized that if I just stopped struggling if I just leaned into his breath I would be all right and I leaned into his breath and we began to breathe as one that is what the great poet Langston Hughes poetry taught us all the necessity to learn how to lean into each other's breath and breathe as one that's what we've been trying to do to make us all breathe as one to stop this division that is going on you know hey we're all the same people different shades of humanity out here you got to stop it and I'm saying it to you young people because it's your world we have messed up this world for you I mean we have screwed it up you know and it's up to you to really really really bring it back and I'm just so happy I've taught for so long and I've seen some of the young brothers and sisters you know began to change the world so listen gentle persons I come to you this evening with two voices the voice of the praise are praising you I come to you the voice of the poet a weave of words threading silver and gold into our veins listen listen to what Elizabeth Cadmus said for a better life for our culture we must impose peace on our country and the world woke up this morning with my eyes on peace I say woke up this morning with my eyes on peace woke up this morning with my eyes on peace gonna leave gonna walk go and live in peace yes someone said there's a dance it's one of us I would say there's also light moon prayer rain ash and River a river of castanets feeling the pulse of this day you my brothers and sisters must family break into a dance of butterflies winging in and out of an hour American Dreams hanging bamboo laughter lighting our world our homes our streets our eyes our memory against peacock catastrophes called war you my brothers and sisters must finally answer the question the most important question of the 21st century what does it mean to be human not pretty not intelligent not bright not looking good all the time but what does it mean to be human what does it mean to be human this is the poem about hands I think your frontier men and women whose hands will discover life through helping the uninitiated hands wrapped and wrists as you reach out to humankind and I hold up my hands to you this afternoon my sister's my brothers these hands with no eyes these hires but no nostrils these hands but no ears now I dress them up like a musician so they can see you home so they can accompany you as you move surrounded by the voices of your ancestors as you move across the scent of tongues what to say to you now my brothers and my sisters Egor Sarah Louise yen Juan ji-yong Rashi kenja Olga Jenny Jenny Jenny Joseph perchรฉ Yasmin Rachel David Jose Shakira Richard Shaquille in the soft morning air as the world holds us all in a single breath for song to sing you Rebecca Angelo Jose John Lee Tanya Rashi Nicolette Suja Karen Charlotte Yolanda no Zuma Terra Shameka Angela Sarah who's ma Edward Megan Robert Halle Hassan we sing will you let me in today America world it is time for young new new ideas young visions we seem today is Friday we have passed this way many years of our lives on our way home to you we have walked a thousand Midnight's and our eyes are anointed with indigo we sing amen amen amen a whoa-ho man a woman a woman this is a poem about you you fun-loving men and women you flint and feather men and women you country and Cathedral men and women with hearts in your mouth sing in the morning when and becoming the wind tearing the wings of ignorance and greed and war and guns and assassinations and mis-education no education poverty arrogance wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah vaulting yourselves in the music of a Spanish guitar forever strumming racial sexual social economic religious justice and peace peace peace peace peace peace peace this is a poem you'll say I know this is the poem you'll all say I know it about that great genius WB Dubois who said what shall the end be the world old and fearful things war and wealth murder and luxury or shall it be a new thing a new peace and a new democracy of all races a just humanity of equal men and women this is the poem about a new time about 4 million gallons of all exploding in the ocean last year leaving the Gulf Coast startled by an avalanche of death and greed this is a poem about 9/11 and you Berg you acknowledge in terror that no other generation has ever known this is a poem about a history of Africans jumping screaming in an ocean in protest to that obscenity called slavery in the Americas this is a poem about a history of Native Americans defending their country against invaders walking their blue death walk of relocation this is the poem about Jews and artists and gypsies dying in concentration camps their children moving in the rain of ash unraveling Minds this is a former by Chicanos making us remember this country is a reservoir of immigrants who helped build this this is the poem about the slaughter and rapes in Bosnia the Congo Rwanda Liberia Syria many massacres of the spirit mind and body in the Middle East this is about the truth in our children's eyes as we watch the feet of our country and this earth as we sanitize the walls of the world with environmental justice hanging as we are not our hands but light as we walk towards ourselves and find others just like ourselves this is the poem with no jet propelled pain no relevant deaths was just a memory of hands a memory of eyes calling out your eyes morning stars opening us to praise as you create dreams as you go out through these university doors textured by colors as the day disrobes in prayer today is your day my brothers and my sisters so come come come come come come nourish the world where every three days 120 thousand children die of starvation or the effects of starvation come come come come come nourish the world away from what burn are hiring the great Roman Catholic teacher calls the materialistic growth mania are for more and more productions and more and more markets for selling unnecessary and even damaging products it is a sin against the generations to come you what shall we leave to them rubbish atomic weapons numerous enough to make this world on inhabitable a poisoned atmosphere and polluted water young come come come you and I let us go into this world praising ourselves elaborating a metaphysics for the universe carrying earth from one plane to another in peace clothing this planet and our eyes with information passion hope peace love peace Pease come come and be come come come become lightning flash come come and become a river running cracking some lots of hatred and hunger come and become come and become come and become finally you and I must paint our faces guardians of the earth finally we must know that we are not quoting I have become dead no we are must be must quote I have become live and therefore I must oppose all killings and murders and wars and rapes and invasions and executions and invasive actions I have become life life life life life life I burned silver and red and black and yellow and brown and white with life for our children for the earth I have become life we must all say I have become life look at me I have become life I walk in light I move like the dawn with a tenth of blue in my hair I say I say I have become life life life life life I walk a path to clears away the debris of racist and sexist and homophobes and terrorists and murderers and earth pornographers I have become la and you and I must become small miracles but push the wind down enter the slow blood stream of America and the world scrape the rust from our eyes or floor by floor window by when to become new brides and bridegroom's among change and you and I must challenge your elders your families your communities your churches your Cathedral your mosque your synagogues with our breaths to breathe and blacks and Latinos and Jews and gays and Muslims and Asians and Native Americans and whites and lesbians and Chicanos and Africans and transgenders to gather up our rainbow color skins in peace and racial and sexual and economic and religious justice so come come come with yourselves sing in life sing in life singing eyes sing in hands alarm and the Deaf singers that we have come to celebrate life life life until we become seeing women and men again walking barefoot across our souls always with a prayer on our tongues talking towards the Spirit I say walking tours the spirit and we must put on our eyes but there is always the position of women and men sewing themselves into the sleeves of change and beauty and activism and change and love and peace and peace and be better it'll get better it'll get better it'll get better yeh yeh yeh yeh yeh you you to get better because of you you you you you you you thank you you

26 thoughts on “What does it mean to be human? | Sonia Sanchez | TEDxPhiladelphia

  1. Hallelujah ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ

  2. this is actually a marketing scheme for ebay. I'm serious it sounds like she's saying 'ebay's getting better'. I hope you never
    unhear that again. (menacing laugh)

  3. "It will get better because of you, You, YOu, and YOU!" LOVE

  4. A lot of people write poetry and spoken word, but Sonia becomes the poem. She's so amazing.

  5. Sister Sonia, you have created a fire within that helps carry my mother's legacy. Meeting you ranks as a highlight of my life and spirit.

  6. lets stop talking about one country lets start building the planet ship earth

  7. I love you mamaaa!!!one day I know al be where you are mentoring me to be as a young poeter.

  8. This is Godgeous! Mama Sanchez, I bow to you, because you come with such spirit, such conviction, such power! Woman, you speak truth like only you can; you turn intellect on its head and blow it away with one shot of spirit-fire. Boom! Where truth exists, peace can reign. We must become life! #iWriteLife #iSpeakLife

  9. beauty is in word. Thank you for your book of poems signed to me.

  10. Sister Sonia, Sister cinnamon sunset Be blessed thank you for your authentic self I too have been changed by haiku!

  11. Sonia, I love you…… Just the other day I was remembering Elizabeth Catlett's work….wondering if she was still with us… I did not know she had passed… I so appreciated her work……I took sooo many art classes in college…. I've spent sooo much time working….. I've lost touch….I don't read as much…or go to art exhibits… I am reconnecting…. so thankful for youtube. thank you ……

  12. I love you Sonia. I am so grateful to rediscover you. My sister Sonia…you sooo inspire me. Thank you, thank you bless you!!!!!!!

  13. i love this women so much she says my feelings and makes me want to change the world and I will

  14. Met her in person! she is a jewel and an underestimated element in civil rights history <3

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