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Freedom Sisters in NYC

Sonia Sanchez

By Gerrie Summers

As a child, Sonia Sanchez was shy and spoke with a stutter, but she found her voice in poetry and influenced a generation of writers.

Standing in front of an exhibit about poet Sonia Sanchez, I looked over at a section that read “Sonia Sanchez on what it means to be a poet.”  I pushed the button to listen.

As the audio began, it was interrupted by a soft voice saying “Hello, sister.”  Standing right beside the exhibit and smiling at me was the poet herself.  How often do you get the chance to speak to a historical figure?  I was able to tell her how her poetry influenced my becoming a writer, before a camera crew spotted the great photo opp. I then turned to view Mrylie Evers-Williams exhibit, to find her directly in front of me saying hello.  I was at a press preview for Freedom’s Sisters, a traveling exhibition, of which Dr. Sanchez and Mrylie Evers-Williams are a part.

Freedom’s Sisters is now housed in The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center (The Shabazz Center) in New York City, inhabiting the old Audubon Ballroom where Malcom X was shot, and it is definitely worth the visit.  Dr. Betty Shabazz, wife of slain black activist Malcolm X, who continued to devote her life to childcare, health and education in the black community, is also part of the exhibit.  I would later find myself standing in the very spot where Malcolm X was assassinated, reading the biographical information about Ella Jo Baker, one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which organized sit-ins and challenged segregation laws, and it vividly brought home the dangers some of the honorees faced in fighting for human and civil rights and challenging injustice.

Harlem is the 8th and final stop on the traveling tour of the Freedom’s Sisters exhibition that had its opening at the Cincinnati Museum Center in March 2008.  Freedom’s Sisters is made possible from a grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund in collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the Cincinnati Museum Center.  It honors 20 African American women from 19th century historical figures to contemporary leaders who have fought for equality for people of color.

The interactive exhibit is designed to resemble the pages of a history book, with each “page” featuring an honoree.  The exhibit contains reproductions of photographs, illustrations, or audio and interactive computer screens.  At the end of the exhibit visitors can collect all 20 pages of the honorees’ biographies and can step into a photo booth to create their page in history.

Freedom’s Sisters will be at The Shabazz Center through April 22, 2012.   The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, 3940 Broadway. 212-568-1341. .  Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10:00a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sunday Closed.  Admission: Free.


Gerrie Summers has been writing professionally for over 31 years in the areas of entertainment, beauty, lifestyle, travel and wellness. A New York-based writer, she has been the Travel Adventures columnist for Today’s Black Woman and now writes the blogs Summers Retreat and The Tranquil Traveler.

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