Voices Against Indifference Initiative

Sly Cheney-Coker Project: Free to Write

October – November 2002


Cheney-Coker photo

Born in Freetown in 1945, Cheney-Coker lived under constant threat from the rebels of the United Revolutionary Front from 1991 to 1997. After his house was attacked following the 1997 coup d’etat, he sought refuge in the American Embassy. He is currently a Writer-in-Residence in the City of Asylum Program at the International Institute of Modern Literature at the University of Las Vegas, NV. Cheney-Coker says the tragic events in Sierra Leone have shaped his mind to the point of making literature the only alternative to grief, silence and outrage. He has been characterized as one of the more exciting and strident voices among the younger African poets, and is a frequent speaker at literary festivals around the world. Cheney-Coker’s literary works (poetry, books, essays and short stories) have been translated into Dutch, Filippino French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.

Project Description

Syl Cheney-Coker, a poet and novelist in exile from Sierra Leone, will be in Charlotte Oct. 28-31 for The Echo Foundation’s Voices Against Indifference Initiative, an educational project featuring a series of student dialogues and community forums. Cheney-Coker’s “Free to Write” dialogues with high school and college students, community leaders and writers will focus on freedom of expression issues, against the backdrop of his personal struggle for freedom in his war-torn homeland to his current refuge in the United States.

The Echo Foundation’s Voices Against Indifference Initiative is a multi-faceted program that provides a local stage from which speakers share their personal story or experience to encourage dialogue about human rights issues and to spotlight how one person can make a difference for humanity through words, action and moral courage.


Calendar of Events

October 29, 2002   WFAE Radio (90.7 FM): (9:00 AM) Syl Cheney-Coker will also be a guest during a segment on Mike Collins’ Charlotte Talks program 
Cheney-Coker Dialogue:
(10:30 AM – 1:00 PM) With 300 students at Myers Park High School

October 30, 2002   Community Forum with Cheney-Coker: (7:30 PM) The Great Aunt Stella Center, 926 Elizabeth  Avenue. Free and open to the public.

October 31, 2002   Cheney-Coker Dialogue: (10:00 AM – 1:00 PM) With 300 students at Charlotte Country Day School

November 17, 2002 Open Mike Poetry Reading: (6:00 – 8:00 PM) Inspired by Cheney-Coker’s life struggles and visit to Charlotte, Myers Park High School and Johnson C. Smith University is co-hosting an Open Mike Poetry in Myers Park High School Auditorium. This event will benefit Cities of Asylum, an international program that provides refuge for writers living in socially and politically oppressive nations.