Oni Lasana Doin' Dunbar as 'Lias' Mother

Oni presents "When Dey 'Listed Colored Soldiers" by Paul Laurence Dunbar as presented in October 2017 at the MERCER MUSEUM in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

A Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Used by Permission Music: Ashokan Farewell by Jay Unger.  

Mark O'Connor's version on Heroes CD. American History comes alive!

'Lias' Mother, The Performance

Oni's most popular program, features the southern dialect spoken word poetry of poet & author, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906). 

Set during the 1800's on a plantation in Cross, So. Carolina, the home of Oni's paternal grandmother. 'Lias' Mother is a highly interactive storytelling play.

It reveals the personal heartfelt experiences of a woman living on a plantation in America.  

Elias, or 'Lias for short, is a fictional character mentioned in Dunbar's most beloved and recited poem, In The Morning.  Lasana brings the poems to life, with music, movement and a simple yet elegant delivery with her engaging monologue.  

Since 1994, Oni studied Dunbar's life, poetry and performs with the Bob Jones Dance and Theater Ensemble of the Coatesville Cultural Society of Chester County Pennsylvania.

Some times 'Lias' Mother travels with her young son, most times she discovers 'Lias sleeping in the audience. "Lias' Mother brings out the best in her co-actor, be they a youngster or an elder. 

     The finale of "Oni Lasana Doin' Dunbar as 'Lias' Mother" culminates in a audience "rap-along" of Dunbar's most beloved standard english poem, Sympathy aka I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. 

Oni Lasana arranged the poem to the hip hop music of Timbaland, giving Dunbar's classic poem a modern unforgettable twist. 


  "I appreciated Oni Lasana's seamless weaving of Paul Laurence Dunbar's poetry with her own storytelling narrative. Oni has created a feisty woman who speaks her mind!"  

Ray Gray, Storyteller 



Was featured at the 26th Annual National Black Storytelling Festival & Conference 

"Follow The Drinking Gourd"

Celebrating Heroes & Sheroes of Freedom

November 2008, Cincinnati, Ohio

PATCHWORK, a storytelling guild's TELLABRATION in 2008 & 1999

Peoples Light & Theater Co. Malvern Pennsylvania

Paul Laurence Dunbar's most loved and recited poem comes to life as Oni comforts Elias as only a mother can. With tender loving care, good advice and a little discipline. 

In The Morning  
A Preference
When De Corn Pone's Hot   
De Way T'ings Come
Keep A 'Pluggin' Away
A Coquette Conquered
My Sort O'Man
When Dey 'Listed Colored Soldiers
Whistlin' Sam
When Malindy Sings
De Critters' Dance  
An Ante-Bellum Sermon

~ ~ ~

"Oni is the voice of Dunbar" Professor & Author Nikki Giovanni, Virginia Tech

"Many hearts were touched by your rendition of 'Lias' Mother."  

Debbie Allen, Actress, Director & Co-producer of Amistad, LA, California

"I felt like I was in the cabin with you."  Audience member at African American Museum, Philadelphia 

"A MUST SEE!...Moving, enriching and a great addition to any college campus program...call her now!" 

Kim Poast, Community College of Denver, Woman Of Color Conference 


"Thank you so much for coming to my retirement celebration and for sharing your special poetic skills to entertain me and my guest. As always, you were terrific! Your Dunbar sketches are so special because they keep our rich cultural alive, in the hearts and memory of our people. Tuta Anana Tena, Hotep! Fondly,   

Carolyn L. Holmes, Ph.D.

Director of African and African-American Studies Department, Philadelphia Board of Education

Former Supervisor Prof. @ Drexel University, PA. 

Bose-Giles Family Reunion, Lancaster PA


Lincoln University, PA

Cheyney University, PA

Virginia Tech University, VA

Tobago Heritage Festival

Dunbar House - Dayton, OH

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Mercer Museum of Doylestown, PA

Diego Martin Library of Trinidad

East Stroudsburg University, PA

Johnson House, Philadelphia, PA

Woman Conference, Community College of Denver, Colorado

Retirement Party - African American Museum of Philadelphia

Freedom Village Sr. Living, Brandywine, PA

Bucks County Free Libraries, Pennsylvania  

Manassas Park City Schools, Virginia

DoDD Schools in Heidelberg, Hamburg, Kaiserslautern, Würzburg, Amburg, GERMANY

People's Light & Theater Co, Malvern PA

Indianola School District, Mississippi

Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Los Angeles

West Chester Historical Society & Museum

Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery, History Dinner Theater, Latrobe, PA


Many more, schools, family reunions, libraries, senior centers, residencies, workshops & storytelling festivals.

History Dinner Theater

The Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery, Latrobe, Pennsylvania 2016

South Philadelphia Library Philadelphia

Elias comes in all shapes, sizes and ages!

Middle & Elementary Schools

Loves 'Lias' Mother as much as she loves them!

~ Recommendation ~


Professor of English, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

March 1999

Dear Oni,

What a triumph! We actually had to turn fifty people away.

You were superb! The audience laughed and cried and laughed and got hungry and clapped and laughed some more. We all absolutely loved you and can't wait until you are able to schedule us again.

Paul Laurence Dunbar would be extremely proud to see this daughter of the north, as he himself was a son of the north, taking up his voice to keep the hope, joy and dignity of a people now gone alive. You made us all so very proud, Oni, to be children of the sun.

Your sister in poetry,

Nikki Giovanni

In The Morning

Paul Laurence Dunbar's most recited & loved southern dialect poem.





Pennsylvania 2016

~ Advertisment Statement ~


This engaging one woman theatrical production mixes the pathos and humor of Paul Laurence Dunbar's most loved dialect poems. A literary and historian's delight, it is a highly interactive spoken word  experience. 

Set during the Civil War in the 1800's, Oni Lasana Doin' Dunbar as 'Lias' Mother is a unforgettable heartfelt journey in American History, Literature and Music. 

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