Storytelling....everything is possible!
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 all her friends on Huntingdon Street.
Oni's mother, was often mistaken for Lena Horne and had dreams of performing. She 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 music of the hit movie, South Pacific.
As a teen, Oni danced with "Crazy Armand" as one of "go-go girls" for WDAS RADIO'S Rock & Rolls shows & Motown Revue's at the Uptown Theater. Oni's biographical short-story, "Rock & Rollin' at the Uptown Theater" was a winning story for the Benjamin Franklin Autobiography Project.
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 customer stylist for the Amber Family of Hollywood, California.
Mentored by Danny Sims of Cayman Music, led her to a career in the music industry. First employed as a receptionist and later in the Music Publishing Department for 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 while employed at Chelsea Records. It led to her promotion to A&R as she promoted Billboard's #1 R&B hit of 1973, "Be Thankful For What You Got" by William DeVaughn. While employed at Chelsea Records, 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 pursue a degree in Communications Arts at Laney College in Oakland, California. While attending Laney she volunteered and was later employed by Pacifica Foundation at KPFA-FM radio station as Interim-Director of the Third World Department, where Angela Davis produced a radio program. Oni produced radio documentaries on the Rastafarian Movement in Jamaica, freedom fighter Steve Biko, the Soweto Uprisings of South Africa, and on the Wailers of Jamaica.
It was at KPFA Radio, where she 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, "Bay Leaf" and "Your Space" a live in-studio community showcase program showcasing local talent. Also, employed as a Supervisor by the City Of Berkeley's Summer Food Program, originated by the Black Panther Party. The program ensured all youth received nutritious free lunches at play grounds city wide.
On a family visit to Philly in 1982, love fell for Oni, when she met her husband and together they raised 3 children. "Blooming where planted" in the 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 was the creative director for 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 Girl Scout leaders in Chester County, PA.
A founding member of the Coatesville Kwanzaa Committee which hosted the Fihankra Project, a delegation of chiefs from Kumasi, Ghana who came to USA on a mission to apologize for ancestrial involvement in the slave trade. Oni 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 Oni studied and performed Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry with the Bob Jones Dance Troupe of the Coatesville Cultural Society. As a "Dunbarian" Oni's passion for his spoken word poetry has taken her to audiences throughout the USA, Germany and Trinidad & Tobago.
Presently, a professional storyteller, she continues as a passionate advocate for Arts & Culture in Education. 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, and bass musician, 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 most digital music platforms.
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 member with ASCAP, American Society of Composers and Publishers. A music arranger on the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, she has set 10 of his poems to a diverse assortment of instrumental music for her Brother Dunbar Performance Workshop (for students) and performances.
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 as a producer and radio host , 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, once again, interviewing and promoting cultural icons, storytellers, poets, community artists and activists to international audiences.
As an "art-tress" Oni directed and performed in several productions with her "drama mama's" The West Chester Community Performers. A benevolent theater group of professional women, who has donated over 35,000 in scholarship book awards to college bound students in Chester County, Pennsylvania since the 90's.
Since 1994, Oni owns and operates Oni Lasana Productions to house her 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. Following her blisss, has 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's greatest joy is in studying and teaching the bible, sharing the benefits of Laughter Yoga and telling stories to children of all ages. She is a Nana to eight grandchildren. A "Auntie" to all children and "Granny Goose" to many. She loves writing poetry, research & re-telling stories with positive messages. Oni re-enact historical woman of color and encourage youth to know thyself, develop self-esteem, tap into creative thinking and respect one another.
As a jewelry artisan, Oni designs & creates necklaces and earrings with precious stones for PRETTY IMPERFECTION ART WEAR. Oni vends PIA on special occasions, holds private showings and features this exquisite statement jewelry line on Facebook.
Oni also enjoys researching stories, rehearsing for programs, playing bass guitar, cooking Creole & Caribbean plant based cuisine, traveling with her husband, meeting hundreds of cool, creative, visionary adults and gifted youth throughout her travels for engagements.
West Chester Community Performers
Association of African American Life and History
(founded by Carter G. Woodson)
African American Intellectual History Society.
NEED A PRESS BIO for a program?
Contact Oni at the form below.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
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(Thank you in Zimbabwe's Shona language )