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Gamma Xi Phi Honors National Poetry Awareness Month

Gamma Xi Phi Honors National Poetry Awareness Month

DURHAM, N.C.—On April 14, the potential and power of poetry brought together members of the nation’s leading fraternity for artists and creators for a virtual program on the art form known for sonnets, spoken word performances, and similes.

North Carolina Piedmont Laurate Dasan Ahanu, D.C.-based poet and actor Buddah Desmond, and nationally recognized poet and South Carolina resident Marla Taviano served as panelists for the program presented by the Theta Chapter of Gamma Xi Phi, the professional fraternity for artists and creators.

“This event was inspired by National Poetry Awareness Month,” said La Toya Hankins, Gamma Xi Phi National President and Theta Chapter program director. “It was intended to bring together poets from across the nation with years of experience and outstanding insights to discuss the craft and capacity of poetry to impact changes in our community.

“The insight the panelists brought to questions like how poetry has changed over the years, how younger generations appreciate the art form, and when they realized they were poets was remarkable. The fact that all three panelists are also members of Gamma Xi Phi made the experience even better.”

Dasan Ahanu is a North Carolina-based cultural organizer, artist, and scholar. In conjunction with creative arts, his academic work focuses on critical writing, hip-hop, and popular culture. He is an alumnus of the Nasir Jones Fellowship with the Hip Hop Archive at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. He is also a resident artist with the St. Joseph Historic Foundation/Hayti Heritage Center and co-founder and managing director of Black Poetry Theater.  

Buddah Desmond has served as a healing leader in the D.C.-based arts+faith+social justice organization the Sanctuaries. He has been featured as part of the Baltimore African American Book Festival, and The Ask Rayceen Show, and his work has been included in The PBS Blog and Vocal Expressions.

Marla Taviano is a poet who created a Black Writers Fund to support Black Writers who dream of writing a book but need time and financial freedom to make it happen. She also maintains an active Instagram account, White Girl Learning, where she cultivates and shares books written by black and indigenous authors with her followers.

“It was a great program, ” said Joseph Cunningham, a member of the Pi Chapter of Gamma Xi Phi. “The panel was engaging and knowledgeable, and I learned some nuances about poetry today.”

La Toya Hankins said this program was part of the fraternity’s National Program I SWEAR. As part of this initiative, chapters must implement artistic projects, programs, and activities related to Service, Wellness, Education, Advocacy, and Recognition.

“Today’s program reflects Gamma Xi Phi’s commitment to elevating the arts and expanding awareness of all the ways facets of the arts shape our world,” Hankins said. “Our current fraternal theme is Gammas Out Loud: Artistry Maximized Professionally. I feel we are striving towards our mission through programming like today.”

Gamma Xi Phi is a predominantly African American organization of men and women in the arts, including literature, visual art, music, theater, and dance. GXP was established at Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey, on October 7, 2010, on the principles of Philanthropy, Sodality, and Elevation.

Gamma Xi Phi honors artists’ achievements through fellowship, philanthropy, social justice, and service. For mor information, visit

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