Poet, fiction writer, and playwright Rashidah Ismaili was born and raised in Cotonou, Benin. She earned a BFA in voice at the New York College of Music and a Masters in social psychology at the New School for Social Research. She earned her PhD in Ethnotherapy and Psychodrama from the Herbert Holt Institute for Psychotherapy. She was active in the Black Arts Movement in New York City in the 1960s.
Her poetry collections include Cantata for Jimmy (2004) and Missing in Action and Presumed Dead: Poems (1992). Ismaili coedited the anthology Womanrise (1978), and her work is included in The Heinemann Book of African Women’s Poetry (1995). Composer Joyce Solomon-Moorman scored an opera, Elegies for the Fallen, based on Ismaili’s poetry. It was performed in 2005 at the City University of New York’s Borough of Manhattan Community College. A reading of Ismaili’s own play, Rice Keepers, was staged in 2006 at the American Museum.
Ismaili has taught at Wilkes University and Rutgers University and has served as the associate director of the Pratt Institute Higher Education Opportunity Program and as vice president of Pen & Brush, an arts organization for women. She lives in New York City.
Poems by Rashidah Ismaili
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