In The Spirit

In The Spirit

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1991

Chicago, Illinois, United States
Established on Jan, 1991
Duo Spoken Word Folk



The best kept secret in music


"Clow Elementary School Storytelling Festival"

Emily Hooper Lansana & Glenda Zahra Baker

Emily and Glenda are dynamic storytellers, full of engaging energy and rhythm. They sang a story song about Friends and taught us Deep & Wide with hand signs. The West African tale of the Tortoise, the Hare & the Elephant was followed with I Am Somebody and Beautiful are My People based on a poem by Langston Hughes. - Clow School Newsletter

"Kuumba: Developing Safe Space for Creativity through Story and Song"


Developing Safe Space for Creativity Through Story and


Presenters: Glenda Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana

Reported by Magdalen Cantwell

Here in Kerry, Ireland, watching a misty rainbow magically curve its way across the sky, I

think of the ‘pot of treasure’ at the end of Glenda’s and Emily’s workshop.

The leaders opened in a tandem telling of “Ms. Mabel’s Hands are Every Color of the

Rainbow,” a tale full of repetition and mime, sure to engage an audience of any age. I loved Ms.

Mabel’s hands fluttering birdlike throughout the tale and that “she couldn’t keep a secret.”

Sharing and suggestions of ways for “nurturing the creative spirit within” followed. Warm-up

activities were moving in space “to be inside yourself and let the moment and music make you,”

guided imagery “to find a safe place,” and using art materials “to define your safe place and to

take the picture of your safe place with you so that when you are healing you know where to go.”

The workshop ended with a collaborative experience. Groups of four or five participants

worked together to create a story, then observed each other perform their piece.

I left with a “pot of gems” essential to the planning of a successful program for any age:

cognitive (thinking about story, modeling and experience), active participation, drama,

collaboration and reflection. Great!

Magdalen Cantwell, a learning disabilities specialist and storyteller/musician, provides music/movement - Healing Story Alliance

"Funda Turns Sweet 16"

More than 20 years ago, Emily Hooper Lansana and Glenda Zahra Baker came together to form Performance Duo: In the Spirit. They have developed an extensive repertoire of stories that carry us on enthralling journeys. Each performance celebrates the power of the word to connect, uplift and transform. Their interactive, spirit-filled stories and songs engage audiences in a memorable, soulful way.

Highlights of their performance history include: The National Association of Black Storytellers Festival and Conference, The National Storytelling Festival, The Illinois Storytelling Festival, Dance Africa Chicago and a number of museums, community and educational institutions across the country.
- See more at: -

"Teens do the "Write" thing"

Teens Do The `Write` Thing And Let Poetry Tell Their Stories.
September 02, 1992|By Hugh Hart.

``Sitting on the platform waiting for the train

and lucky me, this morning it didn`t even rain

was having a hard time all last night

trying to figure out why daddy gave up without a fight

Like Sherlock Holmes I`m on the case

and when I go out at night I carry a can of mace

My mom`s not to blame for this deal, and to me, it just seems so unreal

How can you let your children be taken away

`You don`t have the right` is all you can say

How can you be a father and not know where you kids are every day?``

The classic advice to young authors is ``write what you know.`` Nine teenagers from Neon Street Center, a Lakeview shelter for homeless and abused young people, did exactly that, and the sobering results, which include the above poem by 15-year-old Tanisha, were showcased recently at Hot House, a Wicker Park jazz club and performance space.

``Voices From Neon Street`` opened with Yvonne, 19, singing a powerful a cappella version of ``Glory Hallelujah,`` followed by a group rendition of the old gospel tune ``I Feel Like Goin` On.`` Then the young writers got down to the nitty-gritty.

On-stage catharsis

Tanisha, pacing the stage in a ``World Champions`` T-shirt and jeans, shared her musings on friendship: ``I sometimes think that I don`t have friends, I have associates. Because I think a friend is someone you can trust.``

Darla, 17, tugged nervously on the hem of her purple pantsuit as she recalled a traumatic revelation: ``An unhappy thing was not knowing who my real family members were. One day, my Mom sat me down and told me I wasn`t her real child. She tried to explain, but I was too p----- off to listen. Eventually, I got enough strength to listen to the truth, no matter how much it hurts.``

The show proved cathartic. Afterward, the young poets gave each other high-fives and danced on stage while house music pumped through the club`s sound system. They were exhilarated with the reception from the 60 or so audience members.

Tanisha said, ``I was scared before, but now . . . it`s so exciting when you got into it, it`s really exciting.``

For Kwame, 19, the very act of writing came as something of a pleasant surprise. ``At Neon Street, they asked me to write something, asked me to say it, and when I said it back to myself, it sounded like it had some poetry in it,`` he said, sounding surprised at his own discovery. ``So I figured I`ll keep writing.``

The performance was the culmination of a five-month writing workshop supervised by singer Glenda Baker and poets Emily Hooper and Quraysh Ali, who is a co-curator with Guild Complex, a not-for-profit Chicago cultural center that specializes in poetry, fiction and art programming.

``Their writing skills were excellent,`` said Hooper, who got the idea for doing the workshop after she and her partner, Baker, performed a mix of music and poetry at Neon Street in February. ``What was hard was getting them to share their writing with the others.``

Ali, Hooper and Baker, all of whom are Chicagoans, considered reading their students` work because some of the material was difficult for the writers to deal with publicly, Baker said, but ``I really wanted to see the kids do it. I wanted to see them express themselves by giving voice to their experiences in a way that was really positive. What I saw tonight was, if their first language is `I can`t,` now they`re able to say `I did.```


For more information on Neon Street Center, 1110 W. Belmont Ave., call 312-528-7767. For upcoming events sponsored by Guild Complex at the Hot House, 1565 N. Milwaukee Ave., call 312-278-2210. - Chicago Tribune

"Amherst College Hosts Keepers of the Word Storytellers"

April 12, 2006
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.—Storytellers from across the country will spin their tales at the 15th annual Keepers of the Word Storytelling Festival, a day-long event on Saturday, April 29, in the Friedmann Room in the Keefe Campus Center at Amherst College. Performances will be held at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. This will be the last Keepers of the Word Storytelling Festival directed by Onawumi Jean Moss, the founder and director of the festival, who is retiring this year after 21 years at Amherst College, where she is the associate dean of students. This year’s nationally known storytellers are Onawumi Jean Moss, Eth-Noh-Tec (Robert Kikuchi-Ynjojo and Nancy Wang), Bill Harley, Leeny Del Seamonds and In the Spirit (Glenda Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana).

With original stories, fairy tales, cautionary tales, folk tales and personal narratives, Onawumi Jean Moss encourages appreciation of cultural differences, pride of heritage, recognition of kinship, reflection and inquiry. Her soulful narration, a capella singing, dramatic facial expressions and animated movements bring to life the worlds of adventurous girls and women, charming creatures, scheming tricksters and wicked demons. Last year she received the Zora Neale Hurston Award for storytelling, the highest award given by the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS). This award is given in acknowledgement of a body of work that preserves the tenets of African and African/American storytelling through performance, publications, recordings and service to national and regional storytelling organizations. Moss recently collaborated with acclaimed author Patricia C. McKissack and illustrator Kysten Booker on a new book for children, Precious and the Boo Hag (2005).

Eth-Noh-Tec (Robert Kikuchi-Ynjojo and Nancy Wang of San Francisco, Calif.) weaves music, dance, rhythmic dialog, facial expressions and the spoken word to inspire the imagination. Their performance is often accompanied by Japanese taiko drums, voice or the ditze and shakuhachi bamboo flutes of Asia.

Bill Harley (Seekonk, Mass.) is a musician, author and playwright whose work combines story and song to paint a vibrant, humorous and meaningful portrait of American life. A frequent guest on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and host of Vermont Public Radio’s “Camel’s Hump Radio,” Harley has made 25 recordings.

Leeny Del Seamonds (Westford, Mass.) performs animated, uplifting and interactive Latino, original and world tales spiced with exquisite mime, a cornucopia of voices and a love of people. Named National Storyteller of the Year, Leeny has received a Storytelling World Winner Award and Parents’ Choice Gold and Silver Awards.

In the Spirit (Glenda Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana of Chicago, Ill.) offer a seamless blend of vocalizing and narrative: Baker, an acclaimed musician, and Lansana, a premier storyteller, have an uplifting harmonic performance style that reflects ancient African and contemporary African-American forms.

There will be three ensemble performances at the festival: “Stories for Little Folk and the People Who Love Them” from 10 to 11:30 a.m., “Stories for Young Folk and the People Who Love Them” from 2 to 4 p.m., and “Stories for Older Folk and the People Who Love Them” from 8 to 10:30 p.m.

General admission for the 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. performances is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children. General admission for the 8 p.m. performance is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and $8 for children. A special rate of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for children is available to those who wish to attend both the morning and afternoon performances. Advance tickets are available for each performance at the Keefe Campus Center Office, first floor. The performances are free to Amherst College students and Amherst College staff with I.D. For more information call 413/542-8422.

Keepers of the Word is sponsored by the Lecture and Eastman Fund Committee, Office of Student Activities/Keefe Campus Center, Office of the Dean of Students, The Willis Wood Fund/Religion Department, Association of Amherst Students and academic departments and supporters throughout Amherst College. - Amherst College

"In the Spirit at the Green Line Performing Arts Center" - The Reader

"Legacy of KIng"

In the Spirit carried the second segment of the show, focused on King’s legacy and highlighted the stories told by Butler’s quilts, all through rhythm and song. The performance duo, Zahra Glenda Baker and Emily Lansana, brought to life Chicago’s16th Baptist Church in their duet “The Basement.” Then Emily Lansana soloed to sing her composition “Daddy Says I Can.” They joined forces again in “Witness,” a performance about highlighting women who were leaders in bringing change to the world. Baker closed the virtual performance with a song and slideshow of her family and Butler’s quilts.

“More than 50 years after [King’s] assassination, many would have hoped we would be further along toward the dream than we are now,” Emily Lansana said.

Rodricka Taylor is a video and broadcast reporter at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter @Rodricka_Taylor. - Medill Press Northwestern University


 Recordings:At the Elders Feet (recorded Live at the Guild Complex ) CD 1998Family Heirloom (Moments and Memories)   CD 2012Live In the Spirit  (collected works)   CD 2012 



In the Spirit

Over twenty years ago, storyteller, Emily Lansana and vocalist, Zahra Glenda Baker came together to form Performance Duo: In the Spirit. Based in Chicago, they have developed an extensive repertoire of stories that carry their audiences on enthralling journeys. Each performance celebrates the power of the word to connect, uplift and transform.
They have been recognized for their commitment to community and their vision for change. They have worked with people of all ages, faiths, and cultures from homeless shelters to universities. In each place they remain focused on the belief that creative expression can be an important vehicle for transformation.

In the Spirit celebrates the
triumphs of the Black experience using pieces that highlight significant
moments in our history. These may include: traditional African music and
stories, folktales and songs from the period of captivity, the Great Migration,
the Civil Rights Movement and dramatizations of individual heroes and heroines.

Their extensive repertoire includes: African and African American Folktales (The Cow-Tail Switch, Those Who Ride the Wind, Anansi the Oldest, Brother Tiger and the Big Wind )
Stories from History (The Selma March, Civil Rights Sit-In, Henry Box Brown)
Inspirational Stories (Waangari Maathai, Open Hand Open Heart )
Original Tales (Miss Maebelle, One is Many)
Personal Stories (Family memories, Love Stories, Honoring our Fathers) 


Emily and
Zahra have performed and led workshops throughout this country and are available in a variety of venues: schools, museums, hospitals, community centers & festivals. Performance & Workshop highlights include: National
Association of Black Storytellers Festival-PA, MN, NC, VA, Rhode Island Black Storyteller's FUNDA Fest, Illinois Storytelling Festival, National Storytelling
Festival, Amherst College Storytelling Festival, Mohegan County Storytelling
Festival, NY, Minneapolis Black Storytellers Festival-MN, Detroit Storytelling
Festival, The Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum, FL,  Iowa State University, Chicago Navy Pier, Chicago
Historical Society, The Art Institute, Chicago Children's Museum, Chicago Humanities Festival, The Field
Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago State University,
Northwestern University, DePaul University, Chicago Public schools, parks & libraries.

They also work in collaboration with storyteller/musician, Shanta and other Chicago jazz musicians to form the ensemble "Classic Black".

Watch In the Spirit perform! Please check the following links:

youtube: Trickster!

youtube: Story telling Video Long v3

Discovering DuSable Digitally 

(The Land, The People, The Culture, Louisiana today)

Band Members