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 in the fashion industry, also sang 1st soprano with the Negro Opera Ensemble of Philadelphia. Her father a master mason by trade, was a Renaissance man, charming raconteur and people person. Oni culturally and creatively grew up in a beautiful tree lined neighborhood with lots of playmates. She kept her younger friends safe and out of trouble in what her mother called her "basement & backyard school." Oni loved teaching and directing talent shows, playing and making up street games with a variety of friends on Huntingdon Street.
Oni's mother, who was often mistaken for Lena Horne, placed Oni on the stage at age 7 with the Ms. Hall Dance Troupe at Connie Mack Recreation Center (now Cecil B. Moore). The North Philly all girls dance troupe won city wide competitions performing jazz, tap and ballet to the sound track music of the hit movie, South Pacific. As a teen, Oni danced with "Crazy Armand" as a "go-go girl" for WDAS RADIO'S Rock & Rolls shows & Motown Revue's at the Uptown Theater. You can 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, California.
A self-taught knowledge of the business of music led her to a career in the music industry, first 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. Chelsea Records was also home to British artist Lulu and R&B group, New York City of the hit, "I'm Doing Fine Now...without you baby."
A natural instinct for spotting talent and a gifted ear for picking hit songs, Oni discovered a submitted demo and promoted Billboard's #1 R&B hit of 1973, "Be Thankful For What You Got" by William DeVaughn. While employed at WFO, she was invited and traveled to Jamaica to assist artists in retaining publishing rights. 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. While attending Laney she volunteered and was later employed by Pacifica Foundation at KPFA-FM radio station 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 on the Wailers of Jamaica. It was at KPFA where she also was the first female in USA 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 on local talent program, "Your Space."
She also was employed as a supervisor by the City Of Berkeley's Summer Food Program, originated by the Black Panther Movement, Oni was on the team who ensured the youth at city playgrounds were given nutritious free lunches.
On a family visit to Philly 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 directed a African dancing performing arts Girl Scout troupe. She served as the Chair of Freedom Valley Girl Scout's Minority Task Force, which developed a diversity handbook for leaders in Chester County, PA. Oni was a founding member of the Coatesville Kwanzaa Committee which hosted the Fihankra Project a delegation of chiefs from Khumasi, Ghana.
She also facilitated the Empak "Say Yes! To Black History" program at the Coatesville Community Center and served on the board of Young Woman & Children Services of Coatesville, Pennsylvania.
In 1993 she trained, studied and performed Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry with the Bob Jones Dance Troupe of the Coatesville Cultural Society. As a "Dunbarian" Oni has shared his works to audiences throughout Germany, Trinidad & Tobago and the USA.
A professional storyteller, she continues as a passionate advocate for Arts & Culture in Education for children. She also serves as an humanitarian, historian and educator of African, American and Caribbean history and culture.
As a multi-disciplinary performance and teaching artist Oni independently produced 3 CD's : Oni Lasana Doin' Dunbar as 'Lias' Mother, Sister Wings, Spoken Word Songs Bass & Beat! and I Dreamt, MLK Jr. the single, available for download on ITunes, CDBaby.com and Sound Cloud.
A life long spirit driven poet, her bio-poetic published titles include; A Soul Sister From Cool World Valley, Real Tales of Rhymes & Reason, and Gardenia's & Gumbeaux. Oni is a songwriter and music publisher with ASCAP, American Society of Composers and Publishers. A music arranger on the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, and a creative 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 book awards to several college bound students in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
As a performance poet she was a founding member of In The Company of Poets, "Philly's First and Finest Female Spoken Word Ensemble" presenting as the Story Poet. In continuance of her journey to produced and host in radio, Oni produced CARIBBEAN NITES on WCOJ-FM Radio, "the voice of Chester County" and a poetry and storytelling program, WORD UP! on WCHE-FM radio of West Chester, PA. Oni's online docu-radio show, "Voices of The Diaspora" on Harambee Radio.com, was where she once again enjoyed interviewing and promoting cultural icons, storytellers, poets, community artists and activists to international online audiences.
Since 1994, Oni owns and operates Oni Lasana Productions to house storytelling characters, performance and workshop offerings. Oni's future projects include publishing her 3 children's books before she runs out of steam....as if ;-)
Oni's travels as a researcher, collector of stories, a love of music and most of all people, have taken her to live, work, love, visit and keep it moving from California, Miami, England, Bahamas, Jamaica, Germany, Trinidad & Tobago and most recently, Zimbabwe, Africa!
Oni Lasana's greatest joy is to share laughter and tell stories to children of all ages. She is a Nana to six grandchildren. A "Auntie" to all children and "Granny Goose" to many. She loves composing poetry, research & re-tell stories to teach positive messages, re-enact historical woman and encourage youth to know thyself, develop self-esteem, tap into creative thinking and respect one another.
While enjoying world music & Laughing Out Loud at happy TV, Oni designs & creates jewelry with precious stones for her Pretty Imperfection Art Wear. Oni vends PIA for special occasions, holds private showings and features her exquisite statement jewelry line on Facebook.
Most of all, Oni loves studying and teaching the bible, messing around on her bass guitar, cooking creole & Caribbean cuisine, traveling with her husband, meeting hundreds of cool, creative, visionary adults and youth throughout her travels for interesting gigs.
Oni Lasana is a member of the West Chester Community Performers, the Four Woman Collective, Keepers Of The Culture, Inc., Patchwork, a Storytelling Guild and a life member of The National Association of Black Storytellers.
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Paul Laurence Dunbar
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