Lasana Sekou in California, selects ‘Haiti 200’ from St. Martin

"For Sekou, the commitment to struggle means working in all areas of literary production, forging communities across borders and languages," said professor and literary critic Juliana Spahr. 

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Dr. Spahr introduced the St. Martin writer Lasana M. Sekou to the Mills College Contemporary Writers Series (CWS) in Oakland, California, on February 23, said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).

Sekou opened his hour-and-a-half solo "literary event" with two new poems, "Labrish" and "Citizen," to a full house of students, faculty and other guests in the elegant Mills Hall Living Room, said Sample.

He then launched into varied St. Martin, Caribbean-wide and international-issue poems from his books 37 Poems and The Salt Reaper, both published by HNP.

The students of Spahr, a Mills associate professor, had studied The Salt Reaper before Sekou’s arrival and were ready with questions for the author following his recital.

Spahr’s introduction to Sekou was actually a critique of his work prepared by author David Buuck who called Sekou "a fierce advocate for the independence of his home nation St. Martin."

On February 24, Sekou spoke on campus to the comparative ethnic literature class of Dr. Vivian Chin. The students were treated to an impromptu reading of "The cubs are in the fields," said Sample. Mills is a historical women’s university founded in 1852 (its graduate program is now co-ed).

Sekou’s California appearance also took him across the Bay Bridge to the Small Press Traffic (SPT) reading in San Francisco on February 26. The St. Martin poet was again the main guest artist, said Sample. He shared the SPT mic with popular Bay area poet/author Taylor Brady on the political theme of "Empire."

SPT executive director Samantha Giles said, "It was a pretty spectacular night!" The 35-year-old SPT is housed at California College of the Arts-San Francisco. Sekou autographed books at both readings.

"After returning home early last week Lasana got the news that his poem ‘Haiti 200’ was selected by for its Haiti earthquake ‘MP3 albums’ list," said Sample. The poem, with music by Angelo Rombley, is from The Salt Reaper CD (2009), which is available in St. Martin bookstores and downloadable online.

As for the California trip, the author said that he enjoyed meeting the students, professors, community activists, authors such as Patricia Powell and David Buuck, upcoming poets like Raphael Cohen, and the CWS and SPT organizers.