Sekou Sundiata : Politics

This excerpt from the documentary film, finding the 51st (dream) state: Sekou Sundiata’s America Project, shows one of the many “citizenship dinners” that Sundiata convened in cities across the U.S. as part of The America Project. The clip, from a residency with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, highlights the potential of these dinners to engage people in honest conversation about coming to political consciousness. 
Directed by Stanley Nelson, Firelight Media
Produced by MAPP International Productions

What is a citizenship dinner?
Sekou Sundiata designed citizenship dinners as public gatherings that combine the intimacy of personal storytelling with community participation in order to generate creative dialogue around ideas of citizenship and belonging. The events are organized around potluck dinners held in private homes or in community spaces. After a shared reading of a poem, participants share their experiences of citizenship, community, freedom, family and place. Responding to a poem in this way sheds light on people’s different relationships to language, history, and culture. It puts the past and the future in motion. Through personal memory and storytelling, individuals come together to talk, to laugh, to disagree, and to see themselves as connected to each other and empowered to act in public ways, for the public good.

How to hold a citizenship dinner
Hold your own citizenship dinner, using the guidelines from The America Project Teaching Method for Collaboration, Creativity & Citizenship.

Contributor Bio
Sekou Sundiata (1948-2007) was internationally known as a poet who wrote for print, performance, music and theater, as an educator, and as an artist-activist. He was a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellow, a Columbia University Revson Fellow, a Master Artist-in-Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (Florida), the first Writer-in-Residence at the New School University, and the recipient of a Lambent Fellowship in the Arts. He was featured in the Bill Moyers’ PBS series on poetry, The Language of Life, and as part of Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on HBO. Sundiata was a professor at Eugene Lang College in New York City. Sundiata wrote and performed many highly acclaimed performance theater works. His final work, the 51st (dream) state, was one which Sundiata described as his personal and poetic “State of the American Soul Address.” It came from Sundiata’s larger project, called The America Project, merging civic engagement with the creation of new performance. It allowed him to find a “way to see” through conversations in small scale public gatherings, in classrooms and in art centers – and in the process created groundbreaking theater about democracy and citizenship. the 51st (dream) state premiered at Stanford Lively Arts in April 2006, and toured internationally from 2006-2008.

Related Resources
The America Project
the 51st (dream) state

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