NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Poet, activist and performance artist Jayne Cortez has died at the age of 78.

The Organization of Women Writers of Africa said Cortez died of heart failure in New York on Dec. 28. She had helped found the group.

Cortez was born in Arizona and grew up in California. She later split her time between New York City and Dakar, Senegal.

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.

Cortez wrote 10 books of poems, and performed her poetry with music in nine recordings. On her Web site, her voice was described as being “celebrated for its political, surrealistic, dynamic innovations in lyricism, and visceral sound.”

She also 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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