Sunni Patterson: Poet, speaker and activist

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Poet and speaker Sunni Patterson visited Bellevue College on March 17.

Patterson is a poet and has spent much of her life as an activist, addressing social issues and advocating for peace and health through her art. Patterson recognizes and addresses issues related to all forms of oppression.

Patterson has been featured as both a speaker and a performer throughout the nation and internationally. She has appeared in a variety of venues, from college campuses to concerts and conferences. She has also appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry.

Before pursuing a career in holistic health and healing, Patterson graduated from Tuskegee University, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in English, and was a public high school teacher in New Orleans.

During her workshop at BC, she read and performed some of her original poetry, “Just smile big, show them pearly teeth. Stretch, push, pull. Let us see from behind how much you are worth? How well can you work?”

She continued throughout the workshop to perform more original poetry.

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Patterson pouring water into a bowl to symbolize giving something pure as prayer for loved ones.


David Joseph, Black Student Union Coordinator, explained how the BSU and ASG cooperated and sponsored the event with the newly formed club, Safecracker, promoting and marketing through social media and flyers.

“First time I heard of Sunni Patterson was through Def Poetry. She is well known as an artist woman with a visionary goal. The president and founder of Safecrackers, Omar Tillis, was the mastermind behind the idea of bringing Sunni to Bellevue,” Joseph explained.

Safecracker is an organization which is seen as an extension of BSU. Safecracker’s goal for Bellevue College is to host major events while working with the school in attempts to bring influential and revolutionary black speakers to the campus. During the workshop, Tillis gave a talk saying, “most people don’t take the time or the effort to know anything about the people before you, but the people before you set the stage for the people now. It was only 50 years ago [black people] had the freedom to get on the bus and sit in the front. There were people before Malcolm X and Martin Luther.”

Tillis emphasized the importance of knowing the truth behind history, “some people continue to try to separate and polarize groups of people for their own personal gain,” he explained “when we stand back to back, we can see all things, but when we are arguing we can only see the 10 degrees.”

Sasha Lee, a Bellevue College student commented on Patterson, saying “there is a particular way that Sunni phrases her words that attracts people to her. Her choice of wording as a poet is very unique and reflects her originality. Her fight against oppression is also inspirational.”

Maria Jimenez, Campus Life and Events Representative, also commented on the workshop Patterson hosted saying, “it was very eye opening and interesting.”

During the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which had displaced Patterson from her hometown of New Orleans, she was interviewed by Democracy Now! and stated that she “will be a cultural ambassador to bring a light to every injustice.”