When poet Sonia Sanchez performs her work, she doesn't just read her poetry. She sings, she moves, she stutters and chants, and she uses her poetry to tell emotional stories about tough social issues.
In the 1960s, when the literature was dominated by white writers, Sanchez became a powerful voice int he black arts movement.
She remembers the librarian that set her on her way. "She gave me three books. On the bottom, Up From Slavery. In the middle, Souls of Black Folk. On the top, Their Eyes Were Watching God. I said, but how could I have a degree and call myself an educated young woman and I haven't read these books?"
One of the trademarks of Sanchez's poetry is her use of the black vernacular of her childhood.
"My grandmother spoke in black English, in the kitchen she was cooking and humming and singing,"she says. "And when she said something to me, I would repeat what she said with that southern cadence."
Dr. Brenda Green, professor of English and executive director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College in New York, says Sanchez's influence reaches far and wide. "She should be a part of the American literary canon," says Green.
Green is also the mother of well known hip hop artist Talib Kweli. She says hip hop artists like her son get inspiration from writers like Sanchez.
"People like Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, have looked to these artists and are actually sampling some of the songs and poetry created by the artists from the black artists movement," she says.
On his fourth album, Kweli even invited Sanchez to introduce the first track.