Emily Hooper Lansana headshot

Emily Hooper Lansana

Storyteller & Community Builder
2021 3Arts Awards
Teaching Arts

If you hear Emily tell stories, you may hear an African folktale, a moment from Black History, a personal memory, or a journey into the future. Whatever the form, you will hear a story that inspires.


Here's how it started....


Once upon a soulful time, a little black girl, Emily, the youngest of three, was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio to two hard working old school Black people. They invested in the intellectual, spiritual and artistic education of each of their children. They nurtured their dreams and encouraged them to believe anything was possible.


Her sister and brother found their creative voices in music, but she found her place acting on stage. Her daddy used to say, "My baby girl is going to grow up and go to Yale University." When he passed away the day before her 16th birthday, she was compelled to honor his dream. She received a scholarship to Yale and majored in Theatre Studies and completed a Teacher Preparation program for Secondary English. While most of her theater friends moved to LA and New York, she decided to move to Chicago because she believed it was a place where you could make things happen. She was inspired by the cultural history and myriad Black institutions.


The theater community offered fewer opportunities for young black women than she had anticipated. In the midst of a time of soul searching, she was invited to a concert presented by the world renowned storyteller, Jackie Torrence. Emily sat in the audience and was transformed. How magical to watch this wonderful artist use the craft of storytelling to capture a room of adults and hold them spellbound. Inspired to pursue the craft herself, Emily received a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency to study storytelling with Shanta Nurullah through the agency’s Master/Apprentice program. She began storytelling, teaching and performing in schools with Glenda Zahra Baker. Their performance duo, In the Spirit, has performed locally and nationally. Emily also attended Northwestern University where she received a master’s degree in Performance Studies.


She continues to develop and expand as an artist and a teacher. Her work as a storyteller and community builder has helped her to develop an extensive performance repertoire featured at local institutions from the DuSable Museum to the Chicago Humanities Festival, and nationally, from the Mississippi Museum of Art to the National Storytelling Festival.


How it's going...

As an arts educator and facilitator, Emily believes in helping people to, "Tell the story only you can tell." Her compassionate approach to this work has helped to cultivate stories in diverse communities including with Pre-K-12th grade students, beginning social workers, community advocates, and with organizations focused on supporting those impacted by incarceration. She has worked brought storytelling to leaders who are developing strategies for housing equity and social justice, and working to center diverse approaches to liberation. 


Emily believes storytelling is her calling. Artistically, she is grateful for each opportunity to tell stories, curate performances, and create individually and collaboratively.  Recent projects include curating and performing in a pop-up performance commissioned by Project& for EXPO Chicago, artistic direction and performance with SOL Collective whose most recent performances are featured on CAN TV, a commission for the Southern Foodways Alliance; Tell Open Stories: a virtual community storytelling series of classes; and a residency where she teaches the craft and practice of Blackstorytelling


In addition to the 3Arts Award, she has been honored by the EPIC Women of Color, Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University, and by Ox-Bow School of Art.

Profile image by: Keyana Marshall

Featured Artworks

  •  Black woman standing at mic wearing blue dress. There are 3 signs in the background. They read from L-R Legacy, Warrior, image of James Baldwin Phot Credit Tracye Matthews

    SOL Collective Performance 6-2024

  •  Black woman with hair in bantu knots wearing purple and white dress standing with arms raised in front of red background. Photo credit Nile Lansana

    In the Spirit Performance March 2023

  •  Black woman with hands together in flowered dress in front of yellow and green mosaic Photo Credit Keyana Marshall
  •  Emily Hooper Lansana artwork

    Black History Month performance grades K-3 February 2024

  •  Emily Hooper Lansana artwork

    Storytelling performance students grade 3 November 2024

  •  Emily Hooper Lansana artwork Photo Credit Tracye Matthews

    Epic Women of Color Awards March 2024

  •  Black woman wearing red and black African print  jumpsuit in front of 3arts background and big red heart made of red flowers Photo Credit Tracye Matthews

    3 arts awards 2023

  •  black woman wearing long locs, cowrie shell necklace and black leather jacket Photo Credit Ozzie Marshall


  •  Emily Hooper Lansana artwork Photo Credit Ozzie Marshall


  •  Classroom with glass windows, red balloons, several young children standing in a semi circle black woman in red dress in the center

    Juneteenth performance 2022

  •  Emily Hooper Lansana artwork Refracting Freedom Performance

    May 2023