Syl Cheney Coker, Sierra Leone Poet, Novelist, Activist

Syl Cheney Coker (C.-C.) will be reading from and discussing his works and sharing his experiences at this special event. UCLA Professor Gibril Cole, also from Sierra Leone, will provide the introduction.

Thursday, December 08, 2005
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
10th floor
UCLA campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Poet and novelist (writing in English), C.-C. was born in 1945 to Christian Creole parents in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Having received his early education in Sierra Leone, at the age of twenty-one he came to the United States to pursue postsecondary education at the Universities of Oregon and Wisconsin and also worked for a time as a journalist. He has taught at universities in the Philippines, Nigeria and the U.S. and served as editor and publisher of a fortnightly newspaper, the Vanguard, in Freetown in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Long characterized as one of the more exciting and strident voices amongst the younger African poets, C.-C. has put together a body of works that reflect a growing maturity of vision without losing any of its passion or righteous anger.

C.-C.'s publications include The Blood in the Desert's Eyes [Collection of Poetry], The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar [Novel], The Graveyard Also Has Teeth [Collection of Poetry], Concerto for an Exile [Collection of Poetry]. 

To read his poem, "Bread" from The Blood in the Desert's Eye, please visit

C.-C. has definite opinions about writing and the publication process as he expressed in an interview with UNLV Magazine while he served as Las Vegas' first writer-in-residence under the City of Asylum program:

"It takes a good deal of sang-froid to be a writer – a writer who is engaged – anywhere these days. Gone are the days when we could take for granted the nostrum that there exists a climate of tolerance for the dissident or maverick to write in freedom. When governments are not able to silence you, they leave it to the corporate giants of the publishing world to muzzle you by not publishing your work. It won't sell. It won't make us a million dollars. Not enough sex and violence. If Faulkner were writing today, he definitely would not 'sell.'

The attitude is crested on the assumption that serious literature is dead, and that people just do not have the time to read books when they are busy worrying about their mortgages and the hypertension brought on by the falling stock market. A very hard time, indeed, for writers trying to hold a candle in the wind of our battered humanity."
-Excerpt from UNLV Magazine, "SPECIAL FOCUS The Exiled: Syl Cheney-Coker," Spring 2003, Vol. 11, No. 1.

C.-C. is currently a recipient of the Writer-in-Exile, Lion-Feuchtwanger-Fellowship. Every year the Villa Aurora awards, in cooperation with PEN Center USA West, a fellowship for up to twelve months to a writer who is being persecuted or forced to live in exile. This program was created in memory of the European exiles who have found refuge in Los Angeles and to remind people of intellectual repression and the expulsion of cultural figures today.


Cost : Free and open to the public; parking is available in lot 3 for $8.

UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center