Black arts movement leader Cortez dies at age of 78 in NY due to heart failure


NEW YORK–Jayne Cortez, a forceful poet, activist and performance artist who blended oral and written traditions into numerous books and musical recordings, has died. She was 78.

The Organization of Women Writers of Africa says Cortez died of heart failure in New York on Dec. 28. She had helped found the group and, while dividing her time between homes in New York and Senegal, was planning a symposium of women writers to be held in Ghana in May.

Cortez was a prominent figure in the black arts movement of the 1960s and 1970s that advocated art as a vehicle for political protest. She cited her experiences trying to register black voters in Mississippi in the early 1960s as a key influence.

Her books included “Scarifications” and “Mouth On Paper” and she recorded often with her band the Firespitters, chanting indictments of racism, sexism and capitalism.