Columbus mourns poetry and theater giant Charles ‘Is Said’ Lyons (Via Columbus Dispatch)

Full Title: “‘His effect is seismic.’ Columbus mourns poetry and theater giant Charles ‘Is Said’ Lyons (Via Columbus Dispatch)”

Columbus, Ohio

When Julie Whitney-Scott was a teenager, she read a poem at an event hosted by poet and playwright Charles “Is Said” Lyons.  

“He said, ‘I really like that. You’re pretty good,’” said Whitney-Scott, now a 66-year-old playwright who founded the Columbus Black Theatre Festival. “And we just developed from that.”

What followed was a relationship of encouragement and support that came full circle when Whitney-Scott’s own teenage daughter came home talking about Lyons.

“(She) said, ‘Mom, I’m in this play by Mr. Is. Said,’” recalled Whitney-Scott, of Columbus’ Northeast Side. “And I said, ‘That’s my mentor. He’s a staple in this community.’”

Now, Columbus is mourning the loss of that generational impact. Lyons, 88, died of cancer on Feb. 6.

The former Linden resident will be honored with a series of events this week, including a memorial service Thursday at the Lincoln Theatre followed by a repass service at the King Arts Complex. (More details below.)

For more than 50 years, Lyons was a fixture on the Columbus arts scene, performing at ComFest, the Hot Times Community Arts & Music Festival, and a host of other events, often with his “Advance Party” music, African dance and poetry act. He traveled the world and published countless plays and books of poetry. He was honored with the 2011 King Arts Complex’s Legends & Legacies award, and inducted into the Lincoln Theatre Walk of Fame in 2021.

Local artists said Lyons will be remembered for his wisdom, generosity and storytelling.

“He’s irreplaceable as elders go,” said Emmy-winning poet Scott Woods, 52, of the East Side, who credits Lyons with helping him get established.

“He’s as important to Black poetry in Columbus as he is to Black theater in Columbus. It’s hard to be that important across art forms. And he did it for decades. He did it for whole generations of artists. His effect is seismic.”

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