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Poet, Performer Sekou Sundiata Dies

Sekou Sundiata, a Grammy-nominated poet whose work blurred
the barriers between music, theater and literature, has died at the age of 58.

Sundiata, who taught writing at New
School University,
died Wednesday of heart failure at Westchester
Medical Center,
family spokeswoman April Silver said.

Sundiata performed his work on HBO’s DEF Poetry Jam and in a
national tour with singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, who says on her Web site
that the writer “taught me everything I know about poetry.” His first
recording, “The Blue Oneness of Dreams,” earned a Grammy nomination.

More recently, Sundiata had performed his work around the
country, touring the one-man theatrical piece “blessing the boats,”
which detailed his battle with kidney failure.

“The 51st (dream) State,” which explored the state
of America
following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was performed at Brooklyn Academy of
Music in November.

“I thought maybe the 51st state is a dream state,”
he told The New York Times in an interview at the time. “Maybe the 51st
state is a state of war. Rumsfeld has said the 21st century will be a time of
constant war. You need dream language to get at it.”

On “longstoryshort,” released on DiFranco’s
Righteous Babe Records label, he warned listeners: “People be droppin’
revolution like it was a pick-up line. You wouldnt use that word if you knew
what it meant.”

Sundiata was born in New York
as Robert Feaster. He changed his name in the late 1960s. He attended City
College of New York and went on to complete a master’s degree in creative
writing. He later helped establish the school’s first black student newspaper.
In 1977 Sundiata, along with other poets, formed the Calabash Poets Workshop.
His work has appeared on the Bill Moyers PBS series “The Language of

Sundiata is survived by his wife Maurine Knighton, a
daughter, stepdaughters and grandchildren.

– Associated Press

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