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Quraysh Ali Lansana

Quraysh Ali Lansana has a longstanding relationship with poetry, extending from his youth to his present. He was an early advocate of performance at a time when being such was relativlely unusual. He built collaborations of performers then that read like "who's who" lists today. He is a teacher, an editor, and a scholar on African American literature.

Quraysh Ali Lansana, 1994
Quraysh Ali Lansana

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On the performance side, Lansana is noted often for his curatorial efforts with The Guild Complex during the 1990s and later, in presenting numerous artists with strong verbal and written presence. His own group performances have been with (first) Brothers in Verse, and then the Funky Wordsmyths, which also featured Keith Kelly. Starting in the 1990s, Lansana also performed in an ensemble called the Kuntu Drama Players, who brought live storytelling, music, and poetry to grade schools. Kuntu included his wife to be, Emily (Hooper) Lansana, Glenda Zahra Baker, and Oscar Brown III, among other gifted artists. Following his early Chicago writing and performance in the 1990s, Quraysh and Emily moved to New York, in part for their own studies, but returned to Chicago by the early 2000s. Soon, he had a leading role in running the Gwendonlyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University.

Lansana's poetry books include cockroach children: corner poems and street psalms (Nappyhead Press, 1995), Southside Rain (Third World Press, 2000), and They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems (Third World Press, 2004). He co-edited Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art (Third World Press, 2002) and Dream of a Word: The Tia Chucha Press Poetry Anthology (Tia Chucha, 2006). bloodsoil: sooner red (Voices of the American Land Project, 2009) pays respect to Lansana's own Oklahoma upbringing and cultural perspectives therefrom, a mix of Cherokee and West African heritages. Continuing his commitment to education, Lansana co-authored with Georgia Popoff Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy, & Social Justice in Classroom & Community (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2011), a book as purposeful about the pedagogy as poetry and writing, as is is pointed about the relevance of such art in schools. Lansana has been awarded recognition from Chicago's Black Book Fair, Young Chicago Authors, and even from his mentor Gwendolyn Brooks.

Audio recordings of Lansana's poetry are available in the Book of Voices. Additional information on Lansana is available on The Poetry Foundation. More recordings of Lansana are available on PoetryPoetry.

- Kurt Heintz, 2012