The late sixties was the dawn of cultural awakening. During this time I was a particularly avid reader, and the more I read about Black culture the more I wanted to read. I read Wright, Baldwin, Ellison, poets Amir Baraka , Don Lee, Hoyt Fuller, historians such as Lerrone Bennet Jr, Claude Anderson, Dr John Henrik Clark….. great writers who have influenced me and helped develop my identity. Three of the most important books have to be the autobiography of Malcolm X, with Alex Haley, Man-child in the Promised Land by Claude Brown, and Trick Baby by Iceberg Slim. Through reading these books and through living in these times I was transformed and I marked that transformation by taking a new name: Dawi Opara.

The story of my name change proves the point that you can not get away from where you came. It starts when I was sitting around with a couple of friends talking about our struggle. We agreed that the names we carried weren’t part of our true identity but only borrowed names taken from the white world. So I took the Da out of Dave and the Wi out of Wilks and came up with Dawi (pronounced “Da-wee”). Later on I met a man from Nigeria whose last name was Opara and he told me that this meant “first son”. This name applies perfectly to me since I will always be my father’s first and only son; Pops still gets his credit, no matter what.

I first performed before a live audience with the Ameen Muhammad Quartet at the South Side Community Arts Center sometime in 1979.

Since then I have appeared in a wide variety of venues. Columbia University, Velvet Lounge Crepuscule, Dusable Museum, Jazz Showcase, the Gallery with Douglas Ewart and his various ensembles. as well as Nuevo Bebop, fronted by Yapree Howell and Boaz McGee.I have read many times on Northwestern University’s radio station WNUR, and during a 4 year stint put on a show of poets, drummers and dancers for black history month at Norris Hall.

I am a founding member of the Men’s Art Forum and this organization has helped me compile a cd and book that will soon to be released through this web site.

Look around and you can catch me at various open mikes throughout the city of Chicago.