Acclaimed poet and activist Sonia Sanchez’s expansive collection of work has been symbolic of Black liberation, resilience and pride; inspiring generations of writers and changemakers to speak truth to power. The literary giant—who was at the forefront of the Black Arts Movement—will be bestowed with the 2022 Edward MacDowell Medal for her trailblazing contributions to the world of literature.
Created 62 years ago, the award is given to distinguished thought leaders who have shaped American history. Over the span of her career, the Alabama native has used her artistry to amplify the lived experiences of those from marginalized communities. Through poignant poems like This Is Not a Small Voice and anthologies like I’ve been a woman and Homegirls and Handgrenades, Sanchez—née Wilsonia Benita Driver—explores the concepts of womanhood, intersectionality, politics and culture.
The educator pioneered the development of San Francisco State University’s Black Studies courses. Sanchez also played an instrumental role in shaping the Black Arts Movement which merged art and activism during the 60s and 70s. She’s released sixteen poetry books, penned several plays and has authored an array of inspiring pieces of literature for youth.
Sanchez, 87, says she’s humbled to receive the prestigious honor. “I had tears in my eyes as I learned about this award,” she shared in a statement. “When I consider my dear friend, Sister Toni, and so many others who have been given this award, I feel so welcomed to be part of that group. It is a great honor to be this year’s awardee. MacDowell has such a great herstory and history of caring and concern for artists; it is a joy this place exists to keep the world on a path toward re-civilization, peace, and humanity.”
Claudia Rankine, a poet and essayist who served on the MacDowell Medal selection committee, added Sanchez’s “commanding oeuvre continues to elevate language’s ability to give voice to entire communities inside our shared and troubled history.”
Sanchez will be awarded by writer Walter Mosley during the medal ceremony on July 10 in New Hampshire. She joins a collective of revered writers and poets who have received the accolade in the past including Toni Morrison and Robert Frost.