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Poetry Reading with Jazz Quartet to Open Ellison Centennial Events

A creative writing faculty member at Oklahoma City University will present a poetry reading accompanied by a jazz quartet at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 to open the state’s Ralph Ellison Centennial celebration.

The performance featuring poet Quraysh Ali Lansana and the New Growth Jazz Quartet is the first in a series of events to honor Ellison, the internationally known award-winning author who was born and raised in Oklahoma City. The performance is free to the public and will be held in the Bishop W. Angie Smith Chapel on N.W. 23rd Street between Kentucky and Blackwelder avenues.

The focus of the Ralph Ellison Centennial Celebration is to ensure Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma recognize Ellison through public events and the establishment of other Ellison-related entities such as memorials and archives that will live on beyond the year-long celebration, which runs through March 2014.

Lansana is a professor in OCU’s Red Earth MFA creative writing program. Lansana was born Ron Myles in Enid and originally worked in broadcast journalism in Oklahoma.

After he lost his job and discovered the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, he moved to Chicago. There he became familiar with the local poetry scene, performing with the poetry groups Brothers in Verse and Wordsmyths. Lansana’s books of poetry include “cockroach children: corner poems and street psalms” (1995), “Southside Rain “(2000), “They Shall Run” (2004) and “mystic turf” (2012), a book centered on Lansana’s Oklahoma experiences.

In addition to his books of poetry, Lansana is the author of the children’s book, “The Big World” (1999), and co-editor of “Dream of a Word: The Tia Chucha Press Poetry Anthology” (2006) and “Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art” (2002). Lansana received the 1999 Henry Blakely Award, which was presented by Brooks, and the 2000 Poet of the Year Award from Chicago’s Black Book Fair.

He is a former director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing. He offers poetry workshops for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. He lives in Chicago with his wife and children and teaches for both Chicago State University and the Red Earth MFA program.

The New Growth Jazz Quartet (NGJQ) was founded in the summer of 2010. The group is dedicated to swinging, organic structures and an appreciation for a wide variety of musical idioms both within and outside the jazz context. The NGJQ members are Adam Ledbetter, pianist and composer; Grant Goldstein, guitarist and composer; Aaron Tomasko, bassist; and Jemar Poteat on drums.

Books will be available for purchase and signing at the performance.

For more information on the Red Earth MFA Program visit the website at