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Get schooled tonight: Sonia Sanchez, Angela Davis and Ana Castillo on “The Politics of Poetry”

When women are added to the conversation, the conversation changes. That’s true whether we’re talking about cocktail party banter, the political arena or the artistic community. Since women make up half of the human population, you’d think including us in, oh, anything would be a given—but no: The foundations of feminism and gender equality in this country have been painstakingly laid, brick by brick, by a handful of influential women. In a rare and special instance, three of those activists-in-arms will reflect upon their experiences in a panel this evening entitled The Politics of Poetry as part of this month’s 12th annual First Person Arts Festival.

Ana Castillo, the youngest of the trio, holds multiple degrees, including an MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in American Studies from the University of Bremen, Germany. Castillo coined the term Xicanisma, defining it as “an ever present consciousness of our interdependence specifically rooted in our culture and history.” It’s not only a way for Latinas to understand themselves and their places in the world, she stresses, but also for everyone as well.

Along with Castillo, Angela Davis is arguably one of the most influential women in modern American history. As early as 1969, she began voicing her opposition to the Vietnam War and her support of gay rights and other social justice movements; her membership in the Communist Party led to then-Gov. Ronald Reagan’s request to have her barred from teaching at any California university. She’s now a retired UC Santa Cruz professor and the former director of the university’s feminist studies department.

Rounding out the trio, Philadelphia-based treasure Sonia Sanchez was an advocate for the introduction of black studies courses in California, first implementing these studies in San Francisco State University in the late ‘60s. The multi-talented poetess and writer of 16 books was also an influential part of the Black Arts movement, during which African-Americans redefined American literature by establishing their own publishing houses, magazines, journals and other artistic institutions.

Individually, these three women have worked tirelessly to give voice and identity to a plethora of issues affecting minorities. Together, they represent the authority and impact of a woman’s voice.

Thurs., Nov. 14, 7pm. $20-$25. Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St.

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