Poet Sonia Sanchez launched Cleveland Book Week 2019 with a rousing, reflective performance at Kent State University, as part of the 50th anniversary May 4 commemoration events.

Sanchez began the evening with “A Poem of Praise,” accompanied by a reflection on Kent State students who were killed and wounded by the National Guard during the campus demonstration in 1970, chanting each by name.

As one of the architects of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez, 85, has written more than a dozen poetry books, several plays and essays, experimenting with musicality in the written word. She’s also spent more than 40 years in the classroom, a pioneer of black studies and women’s studies on college campuses. For these contributions, she’ll be honored on Thursday night with the 2019 Anisfield-Wolf lifetime achievement prize.

Throughout the evening, Sanchez anchored her talk with the theme of activism, urging the students to be politically active, to push the conversation forward around income inequality and climate change. “I can’t give you any easy answers but you’ve got to face this world with a very brave face, with a face that says, ‘I want to live,'” she said. “The only way to do that is to struggle and fight. Not wars, but fight against the greed in this country.”

Watch her full remarks below and make plans to join us for the remaining Cleveland Book Week events. All events are open to the public. See the full schedule and make reservations here.