Current events and dialogue frequently remind me of the late poet and musician, Sekou Sundiata. As a former student in his “America Project” class, I, like many others, was greatly influenced by his teachings.
Sekou’s 2000 album, Long Story Short, features a song called “Reparations,” which was also performed by him on Russell Simmons’s popular HBO series, Def Jam Poetry (as seen in the video included in this post). In watching his performance again, I am reminded of Sekou’s unique voice.
Come on and bring on the reparations. For all the unrequited home runs, brothers be burning up the bases, the crowd be going mad, brothers be crossing over home plate, go outside and can’t get a cab.
Rather than lecture or manifesto, Sekou used often unspoken, common narratives to highlight poignant realities and make profound arguments. In this example, Sekou coined “unrequited home runs” in reference to the common contributions of black baseball players within a league that excluded them for over sixty years, and continues to struggle with this legacy.
Sekou spent his career developing what he called the “research-to-performance” method, which utilized narratives to extract political, cultural, and even scientific meaning in a variety of ways. In Reparations we hear and see hints of his method before it was fully developed, in his creative inclusion of narratives to make a point, normally argued in other ways.