Spoken Work Artist Dasan Ahanu Selected as 2023 Piedmont Laureate
Dasan Ahanu, a Durham-based spoken word artist/poet, has been selected as the region’s 2023 Piedmont Laureate. During 2023, Ahanu will appear at virtual and in-person programming, including workshops, reading programs and speaking engagements throughout Wake, Durham and Orange counties.
The Piedmont Laureate program is dedicated to building a literary bridge for residents to come together and celebrate the art of writing. Co-sponsored by United Arts, City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, and Orange County Arts Commission, the Piedmont Laureate program’s mission is to promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont region.
The program focuses on a different literary form each year, including poetry, novels, creative non-fiction, drama/screenwriting, children’s literature, short fiction, speculative fiction, and mystery fiction.
“Dasan has an innate passion for the arts, and for community. I have watched him perform solo at slam events but also as part of broader programs, such as the Durham Symphony Orchestra performances celebrating classical music and music icons,” says Angela Lee, Executive & Artistic Director, Hayti Heritage Center. “What a joy watching him perform poetry on stage with music by a classical orchestra. He not only excels at what he does, he loves it!”
“Dasan makes the language of poetics accessible through his discussions of craft and the power of story that crosses both imagined and real boundaries inside our culture,” says Jaki Shelton Greene, North Carolina Poet Laureate, Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow and Inaugural Piedmont Laureate. “His presentations, leadership, and programming require not only scholarship, but a necessary candor, delivered with delicacy, that he engineers without compromising the integrity of the subject matter. He is a poet’s poet who embodies a deep appreciation for collaborations and shared collective passions for the domain of poetry.
As Piedmont Laureate, Ahanu will receive an honorarium and serve until December 2023. His duties will include presenting programming which includes public readings and workshops, participation at select public functions, and creating at least one original activity to expand appreciation of the work of poetry with an emphasis on spoken word.
A schedule of the Laureate’s 2023 activities will be posted on the sponsoring agency websites and on the Piedmont Laureate website at www.piedmontlaureate.org.
About Dasan Ahanu
Dasan Ahanu is an artist, educator, scholar, and cultural organizer based in Durham, North Carolina. In addition to performing across the country, Dasan has hosted or coordinated many Poetry, Jazz, Hip Hop, and Cultural Arts events. As a writing fellow with the Center for Community Change in Washington, DC, he wrote and published articles and essays about the economic struggles for families, students, and artists. His artistic work was featured on National Public Radio (NPR), where he was noted for his appearances on News and Notes with Ed Gordon and State of Things with Frank Stasio. He has been showcased on NBC 17, featured on the third season of Lexus Verses and Flow aired on TV One, and in a documentary, Poet Son, presented on WUNC-TV as a part of the North Carolina Visions film series. He has worked with a number of North Carolina Hip Hop and Jazz artists and released several spoken word recordings. As a resident artist with the St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation/Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, NC, he has developed poetry and spoken word programming for youth and adults. He has competed regionally and nationally in poetry slam as a founding member and coach of Durham, NC’s own Bull City Slam Team. He is co-founder and managing director of Black Poetry Theatre, a Durham-based theatre company that creates and produces original stage productions. Dasan is the author of four poetry collections that include The Innovator (HWJW Publishing 2010), Freedom Papers (HWJW Publishing 2012), Everything Worth Fighting For: an exploration of being Black in America (Flowered Concrete 2016), and Shackled Freedom: Black Living in the Modern American South (Willow Books 2020).
Dasan is also an alumnus of the Nasir Jones Fellowship with the Hip Hop Archive at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research. He is a scholar whose academic work focuses on critical writing, creative writing, Hip Hop, and popular culture. Currently, Dasan is a visiting professor at UNC-Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC where he teaches courses on Hip Hop and Black culture and a consultant working with organizations on art-based strategies. He is also the Rothwell Mellon Program Director for Creative Futures with Carolina Performing Arts.