For nearly 15 years, local authors have stepped into the role of Piedmont Laureate to promote the literary arts throughout central NC. This year’s honoree is Dasan Ahanu, a spoken word artist and poet who was born and raised in Raleigh.
Dasan wrote his first poem in second grade. Although he doesn’t remember what it was about, he’ll never forget that it landed a spot in the school newspaper — and that his mom was very proud.
For years, he wrote as an outlet, reflecting on his emotions and the world around him. “Curiosity and making observations had a huge influence on my art,” Dasan told RALtoday. “Life is my greatest inspiration.” He particularly likes to think at Chamberlain Park, Lake Johnson, and the Bojangles near Saint Augustine’s University (with a sweet tea).
After years of writing, Dasan’s friends convinced him to perform at an open mic night at a lounge on Hargett Street when he was 22 years old. One performance and he was hooked.
Dasan went on to co-found the Bull City Slam Team and Black Poetry Theatre. He’s performed around the country and is a visiting professor at UNC-Chapel Hill where he teaches courses on hip-hop and Black culture.
“To be able to exercise your voice is so empowering and freeing,” Dasan said. “And to also know that there are people on the other side willing to hear it. Writing is a connector and a way of building community.”
During his one-year term as Piedmont Laureate, Dasan will participate in workshops, reading programs, and speaking engagements to bring the community together and celebrate the art of writing. Events will be held around Wake, Durham, and Orange counties — they’ll be posted here as they’re announced.
To kick off the year, we asked Dasan what advice he has for storytellers looking to find their voice.
“Trust yourself,” he said. “If you lead with your heart and your spirit, you’ll be able to uncover the stories you need to tell.”