Caught between the Civil Rights Movement and the hip hop/spoken word generation, she has inspired much of the arts used as a channel for activism that we see today.

The film, released in 2015, explores not only how her life intersected with American history but how she became the woman described by Maya Angelou as “a lion in literature’s forest.” Her fight to have African American studies injected into university curriculums and her outspoken manner caused her to lose teaching positions. Her father asked why she couldn’t just be stay silent so she could move ahead in her career. “But then I couldn’t teach,” Sanchez said. She called herself a woman with “razor blades between her teeth.” Sanchez stood up to the Black Panthers when she detected sexism in their ranks. In 1972, she joined the Nation of Islam but eventually left three years later because her views on women’s rights differed from theirs. But she paid a high price for her outspoken ways. She was a single mother raising two sons and a daughter while risking her career for her political beliefs. Eventually, her daughter was taken from her, an unbearably painful loss. 

In 1969, Sanchez received the P.E.N. Writing Award. In 1989, she was given the American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades. Sanchez became Philadelphia’s first Poet Laureate and served in that position from 2012 to 2014. She was the first to create and teach a course based on Black women and literature in the country and has taught in over 500 college campuses across America. Her legacy and her poetry will live on and this film is a fitting tribute to a courageous life well-lived. 

The film is available from California Newsreel: