A prominent author and spoken word poet, she was an integral part of the Black Arts Movement. Her poetry publications include Firespitter (1982) and Mouth on Paper (1977).
Her writing was inspired by her childhood in Los Angeles' Watts neighborhood, as well as by the jazz and Latin music that she grew up listening to.
She published volumes of poetry, released music albums, and performed culturally and politically significant spoken-word acts.
Her first marriage was to jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman and her second marriage was to sculptor Melvin Edwards.