Mastermind behind Dayton urban poetry showcase to be honored today 


Sierra Leone will be in the spotlight today.

The Dayton writer and one of the leaders of a Dayton urban poetry movement is a 2018 Ohio Governor’s Award recipient in the category of Community Development and Participation.

»»3 Daytonians win big Ohio arts awards

The award is presented by the Ohio Arts Council and Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation. Sierra’s award, in Community Development and Participation, is for, according to the Ohio Arts Council website, an “Individual or organization that works to create or strengthen interactive arts participation among diverse community members while increasing public awareness about the role of the arts in community life.”

»»Daytonian of the Week: Sierra Leone

That is certainly a fitting description of Sierra, who is the president and artistic director of Oral Funk Poetry (OFP) Productions, co-founded with her husband Robert Owens Sr.

“I felt euphoric,” Sierra said, when I asked her to describe her reaction to learning that she’d won the award. “I don’t make art for validation, and yet this particular validation felt powerful, to know that our state recognizes and values the work I’ve created with Robert.”

>> Dayton arts group wins Oscar of the dance world

For more than a decade, OFP has produced “The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show,” a bi-monthly show that presents urban poetry, music, dance and more, drawing from local, regional and international talent. The show is housed at The Loft Theatre and is co-presented by The Human Race Theatre Company. In addition, the show expanded to include a poetry competition, The Last Poet Standing.

“The urban art we’ve produced is a unique form, celebrating all art forms with poetry as the moral fabric,” Sierra says. “Spoken word poetry is not usually in the forefront of the arts, so for this to be honored by the state is meaningful to us.”

Sierra also works with organizations and schools through the company’s educational arm, particularly focusing on girls’ empowerment work. She writes and performs her own poetry as well.

“I come from a large family,” Sierra says, “And I started thinking about this when I learned of the award. I wondered, ‘what are the roots of my passion for connecting arts, artists and community?’ And I think it has to do with growing up in a large family, and from my grandmother who emphasized that life is better together, in community. In community, we can be more creative, more impactful, reach more people in diverse audiences.”

Indeed, The Signature shows are, Sierra says, in some ways like artistic church to the attendees. “It’s a higher minded experience, and provides in many ways a sense of healing to the community.”

At the same time, Sierra says that “the arts are constantly morphing and changing, and so we need to, too, at OFP.” Looking ahead to the next ten years, Sierra says the production company will continue to produce some “The Signature” shows, but also aims to develop other experiences and productions. Sierra, who started as spoken word poet, plans to also continue to grow as a poet in writing, and to focus on consulting with area schools and organizations and to serve as the lead educational consultant for her husband Robert’s education business.

»»Dayton couple enriches lives of others: How Mimi and Stuart Rose do it

“Robert has been in my corner 100%, all along,” she says. “I’ve learned that no one creates goodness alone.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Family confronts Dayton police during man’s arrest, prompts ‘Signal 99’ call for assistance
Family confronts Dayton police during man’s arrest, prompts ‘Signal 99’ call for assistance

Family members confronting police officers after they took an armed man to the ground during an arrest prompted a “Signal 99” call for officers in need of urgent assistance. The incident began when officers tried make a traffic stop, but the vehicle fled, Dayton police Sgt. Ryan Halburnt said. Shortly afterward, they found the vehicle...
Amazon’s site working after crash kicks off Prime Day
Amazon’s site working after crash kicks off Prime Day

Amazon’s website appears to be back up and running after it crashed shortly after Prime Day began. During the crash, customers could still search for regular items through normal search bars, access their shopping carts and click through Amazon devices, but customers couldn’t make purchases during the first hour of the sale. RELATED: Prime...
Department of Justice indicts 7 people for stealing $1.5M in online dating scam
Department of Justice indicts 7 people for stealing $1.5M in online dating scam

Seven Nigerian nationals have been indicted for conducting an online dating scam that cost lovelorn victims more than $1.5 million, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia said in a Friday news release. >> Read more trending news  The seven defendants created fake profiles on dating sites, sometimes...
Grandma was right: Why it's good for your health to be outdoors
Grandma was right: Why it's good for your health to be outdoors

Sure, there are treadmills at climate-controlled gyms and Nintendo's Wii is still going strong with indoor workouts like Zumba Fitness 2. And yet, old-fashioned advice to "go outside and play" is still the best for your health, according to researchers the world over. In one study published by the NCBI, researchers...
 Off-duty Troy firefighter dies unexpectedly
 Off-duty Troy firefighter dies unexpectedly

An off-duty Troy firefighter/paramedic passed away unexpectedly Friday evening. Jason Holfinger, 38, died unexpectedly at his Covington home, according to his obituary. He is survived by his wife and three children. Holfinger joined the Troy Fire Department in 2013. Grief counseling has been offered to Troy firefighters. Visitation will be at ...
More Stories