Poet laureate, playwright and a cappella singer, Stacy Dyson began her career in kindergarten writing "lousy little poems" about pigs, mud and other issues relevant to a 5-year-old. Now she writes about the black woman's experience with humor, wit and innate understanding.
"I'm eminently qualified," she says. "I've been a black woman for a fair number of years and I have 400 years of others' experience in this country alone to write about."
Sponsored by the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration, Dyson teaches poetry and self-expression to children in poor rural areas. Before meeting the traveling poet, many in her young audience have never seen a black person in real life.
She describes herself as abysmally shy, but determined. After deciding to add a cappella singing to her repertoire, she shut the doors, turned off the phone and sang for four hours every day for six months.
It was five years before she was satisfied, but now she sings everything -- from Aretha Franklin to show tunes. Dyson says the flow, sound and emotion of music and poetry are so intertwined that she has difficulty separating them.
"Somebody has to sing for my sisters, the women of my race whose stories are not being told."
-- story and photo by Jane McBee