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Jayne Cortez, poet, performer and activist prominent in black arts movement, dies in NY

NEW YORK — Jayne Cortez, a 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.

Cortez was a prominent figure in the black arts movement of the 1960s and '70s that advocated art as a vehicle for political protest. She would cite her experiences trying to register black voters in Mississippi in the early '60s as a key influence. She toured worldwide and had been planning a symposium of women writers to be held in May in Ghana.

She was married twice, to jazz musician Ornette Coleman and to the sculptor Melvin Edwards.

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