Sonia Sanchez’s strong political views have created controversy surrounding her work among both black and white audiences. Her plays are revolutionary in their content and in their blunt language describing the evils of racism. Her characters often speak in the profane language of urban black English, shocking readers and playgoers. Her exploration of the oppression of black women by black men is a constant theme in her drama, often drawing the criticism of the black community. Her views, however, are not traditionally feminist, as her central theme is the evil of racism. As in all her writing, her plays stress the responsibility of the members of the African American community to love themselves and one another as a way of transcending racism. She has attempted to bridge the gap between the elite world of academia and the reality of the black experience in the United States.
Sanchez’s plays are an outgrowth and extension of her poetic craft. She calls on her heritage from black music: blues, jazz, and gospel. Her dialogue is innovative in its typography and rhythm and rejects traditional spelling and capitalization (for example, “blk” and “u” for “black” and “you”). The language of white people, she believes, is a form of oppression. While Sanchez is skilled in playing with words and can express herself in a variety of forms, including traditional English prose and poetry and Japanese haiku, in both her poetry and drama she rejects “Eurocentric” language and traditions. She has moved away from her use of vulgarity in her earlier plays toward a more loving, spiritual expression, and her later work in poetry seems less angry, although it still has strong political content.
The Bronx Is Next
Sanchez’s first brief play was, she says, a condemnation of what Harlem was becoming in the 1960’s. Once the site of the great outpouring of creativity called the Harlem Renaissance, the area was being destroyed by drugs and violence. The play’s two major characters are Old Sister, representing the past oppression of African Americans in the Old South, and Black Bitch, a sexually promiscuous woman accused by the black male characters of sleeping with a white police officer and failing to support the revolution. When Black Bitch accuses the black male leader of abusing women, he brutally rapes her. The black male...
(The entire section is 970 words.)