MCLA Presents! Dedicates Evening of Poetry


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - MCLA Presents! will turn down the lights to dim on Tuesday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. when MCLA's Gallery 51 dedicates a night of spoken word and poetry to the life and works of the great poet Sekou Sundiata, an internationally known poet who wrote for print, performance, music and theater as an educator and as an artist-activist.

"Sekou Sundiata Evening of Poetry and Spoken Word" will feature poet, playwright, novelist, essayist and recording artist Carl Hancock Rux, Marafanyi percussion group and MCLA students Benjamin Boyd '09 and Eli Bulno '09, who will recite their original poetry.

Sundiata wrote and performed in the highly acclaimed performance theater works The Circle Unbroken is a Hard Bop, which toured nationally and received three AUDELCO Awards and a BESSIE Award.  He released two major recordings, the GRAMMY-nominated The Blue Oneness of Dreams (Mouth Almighty/Mercury), and its successor, longstoryshort (Righteous Babe Records). He toured internationally with his band; in 2001, they performed in 23 cities in the United States and Canada as part of Ani DiFranco's "Rhythm and News Tour."  His last work was "the 51st (dream) state", a fully staged work exploring what it means to be an American in the wake of 9/11. Clips from the "the 51st (dream) state" will be shown throughout the evening.

Rux began his career as a playwright with "Song of Sad Young Men," produced off-Broadway in 1990, directed by Tony award winning actress Trazana Beverly and starring actor Isaiah Washington. The play, a social commentary on the effect of AIDS and homelessness on the African American community, was written in response to Rux's older brother's death from AIDS in 1989.  In 1994, after the release of the anthology, Rux was selected by the New York Times Magazine as "One of Thirty Artists Under The Age of Thirty Most Likely to Influence Culture Over The Next Thirty Years."  As a writer and frequent guest performer in dance, his collaborators have included Marlies Yearby, the Urban Bush Women, Jane Comfort, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Rux received a BESSIE© award for his direction of the 1994 Lisa Jones/Alva Rogers dance musical, "Stained."

Local artists who perform internationally, Lara Gonzalez and Yael Shacham formed Marafanyi after falling in love with West Africa. Together, they present an artistic expression that fuses original songs and spoken word with traditional West African rhythm and dance showcasing indigenous instruments. They travel frequently to Guinea to focus on the dynamic and lyrical music & dance from a variety of ethnic groups.
As teaching, performing and recording artists, Gonzalez and Shacham make accessible the therapeutic, empowering and educational benefits of the music and cultures of West Africa to all ages, populations and the community at large.

"It is truly great to be able to dedicate this evening to one of America's great poets and performers, Sekou Sundiata.  Many have seen his work or met him at performances throughout the Berkshires including the Mahaiwe, MASS MoCA and Williams College.  To be able to carry on his legacy at MCLA is an honor" said Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. "But folks should be sure to reserve early, as we purposely opted for the intimate setting of MCLA Gallery 51."

Tickets for general admission are $12, $5 for MCLA faculty and staff and free for members and MCLA students.  To reserve tickets, call (413) 662-5204 for more information, go to presents or call 413-664-8718.