Oni Lasana was born and nurtured with a love of music, poetry, storytelling and people in the Strawberry Mansion section of North Philadelphia. Her mother, Maria, a businesswoman, also sang 1st soprano with the Negro Opera Ensemble of Philadelphia. Her father, a mason by trade was a Renaissance man, vivacious raconteur and "people" person. She was culturally and creatively raised on a beautiful tree lined street with lots of playmates. She kept her younger friends safe and out of trouble in what her mother called her, "Basement & Backyard School" She loved teaching, directing talent shows, playing and making up street games with her friends in the neighborhood.
Her mother put her on the stage at age 7 with the Ms. Hall Dance Troupe at Connie Mack Recreation Center (now Cecil B. Moore). The children's troupe won city wide competitions dancing jazz, tap and ballet to the sound track music of the hit movie, South Pacific.
As a teen, she danced with "Crazy Armand" as one of his go-go girls for WDAS Rock & Rolls shows & Motown Revue's at the Uptown Theater.
Read Oni's award-winning bio-story, "Rock & Rollin' at the Uptown Theater" at the link to her blog at the end of this page.
Oni graduated in business from West Catholic Girls High School of Philadelphia. Employed by Fidelity Bank, she went on vacation to Los Angeles and fell in love with the palm trees! After moving to Los Angeles (for the weather - it was little opportunity in the performing arts, for people of color in the early 70's) Oni was employed in the fashion industry in sales, a window dresser and stylist by the Amber Family of Hollywood.
Years later, her love of music, led her to be employed as a receptionist and later in the Music Publishing Department with the Partridge Family TV Show's, Every LIttle Tune Publishing Division at the Wes Farrell Organization, Recording and Music Publishing Co. aka Chelsea Records in Los Angeles.
A natural instinct for spotting talent and a gifted ear for hit music, she discovered and promoted the Billboard #1 R&B hit of 1973, "Be Thankful For What You Got" by William DeVaughn.
After leaving WFO she was invited and moved to Jamaica to assist artists in retaining publishing rights. It was where she became a pioneer in the publishing and promotion of reggae music. In 1975 she returned to the US to study Communications at Laney College in Oakland, California.
Oni's love of radio production found her volunteering and later employed by KPFA-FM Pacifica Foundation as Director of the Third World Department. She produced radio documentaries on the Rastafarian Movement in Jamaica, Steve Biko and the Soweto Uprisings of South Africa, and an audio documentary on the rise of the Wailers of Jamaica. It was at KPFA-FM where she was the first female to host a national weekly radio show featuring Reggae & African music. She also produced and hosted a popular modern Jazz program called "Bay Leaf" and a community showcase program known as '"Your Space.
In 1982, "love fell" for Oni when she met her husband and together they raised 3 children.
Oni "bloomed where planted" in the beautiful countryside of Chester County, Pennsylvania. With her children by her side, she was active in the community as a cultural activist and a youth mentor in the performing arts. She facilitated the Empak "Say Yes! To Black History" program for the Coatesville Community Center and served on the board of Young Woman & Children Services of Coatesville.
Since 1993 she trained, studied and performed Paul L. Dunbar’s poetry under the direction of Bob Jones of The Bob Jones Dance Troupe of the Coatesville Cultural Society. Oni's was the Chair of the Minority Task Force for Freedom Valley Girl Scout Council which developed diversity programming. Oni is a passionate advocate for Arts & Culture in Education for children. She also serves as a humanitarian, historian and educator of American and Caribbean history and culture.
A multi-disciplinary performance and teaching artist who independently produced 3 audio CD's available at CDBaby.com and on Sound Cloud.
A life long published poet, storyteller, performance poet, songwriter, music arranger, and director of adult and youth theater. She has directed and performed in several productions with her "drama mama's, The West Chester Community Performers, a benevolent theater group who has donated over 30,000 in scholarship awards to talented college bound youths in Chester County, PA.
As a performance poet she was a member of In The Company of Poets, "Philly's First and Finest Female Spoken Word Ensemble" as the Story Poet. She produced and hosted music and storytelling programs on local Chester County radio station's WCOJ & WCHE-FM. Oni's online docu-radio show, "Voices of The Diaspora" on Harambee Radio, was a creative outlet back to radio where she enjoyed interviewing and promoting cultural icons, storytellers, poets, community artists and activists to international online audiences.
Since 1994, Oni has owned and operates Oni Lasana Productions to house her performance and workshop programs. Oni's future projects include publishing at least ONE of her 3 children's books before she runs out of steam....as if ;-)
Oni's travels, research and love of music & storytelling, and most of all people, have taken her to live, work, love, visit and keep it moving in California, Miami, England, Bahamas, Jamaica, Germany, Trinidad & Tobago and most recently, Zimbabwe, Africa!
Oni Lasana's greatest joy is making children of all ages laugh and is a Nana to six grandchildren. She loves to cook, write poetry, research and re-tell stories that teach positive messages, re-enact historical woman, and encourage youth to respect one another. While listening to music & Laughing Out Loud at happy TV, she designs & creates precious stone jewelry for her Pretty Imperfection Art Wear. Oni vends PIA for special occasions, holds private showings and features her beautiful statement jewelry line on Facebook. Most of all, Oni loves studying the bible, messing around on her bass guitar, hanging out with her husband of 35 years, and cooking Creole and Caribbean cuisine.
Oni Lasana is a member of the West Chester Community Performers, Corresponding Secretary for Keepers Of The Culture, Inc.: Philadelphia's Afrocentric Storytelling Group, a board member of Patchwork, a Storytelling Guild, member of The New Jersey Storytelling Network and life member of The National Association of Black Storytellers.
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Paul Laurence Dunbar
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