Stanley Banks, assistant professor and artist-in-residence at Avila University, uses creative writing to give students the first-hand knowledge of a real world practitioner.
Banks, a member of Avila’s faculty since 1998, said he chose to be an educator because he wanted to change the world for the better.
“I chose to be an educator because I wanted to put my positive stamp on the lives I come in contact with,” Banks said. “Teachers may not get paid much, but what we do means much.”
With his grandmother as his inspiration, he lives his life with the motto, “What does not kill you makes you stronger.
I stress to my students that the truth and hard work will never let you down,” Banks said, and hard work is what he’s doing.
Banks recently released a third book through his independent press, Georgia A.B. Press, named after his grandmother Georgia Ann Banks, who was a Kansas City bootlegger. His wife, Janet M. Banks wrote the latest book, titled “Stewed Soul.” The other two books published by Banks were his own--“Coming from a Funky Time and Place” and “Rhythm and Guts.”
“My independent, self-publishing press is my labor of love, and publishing my wife's first book of poetry is just a continuation of my dreams,” Banks said. “I named my press after my grandmother because she raised me, took care of me, protected me, and literally made me by her sheer will into a productive man.”
Banks is also currently giving poetry readings from his latest book, “Blue Beat Syncopation,” and last year Banks received the University of Missouri – Kansas City Alumni award, Defying the Odds.
Throughout his career, Banks has made a name for himself through multiple media. Banks has been a guest-recording artist on a jazz-and-blues CD and has performed with jazz-and-blues guitarist, Sonny Kenner. Banks has hosted his own cable television talk show pilot, received both the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship grant and the Langston Hughes Prize for Poetry and was given the Kansas City, Missouri Mayor’s Proclamation in 2002 for his contributions to the community and his accomplishments in poetry and education. Also in 2002, the Black Archives of Mid-America, Inc., displayed a year-long exhibit of Bank’s life and literature.
“It is easy for me to stay humble because when I think of where I came from, I know that I am a combination of being very blessed and very lucky,” Banks said. “So, anytime that I am blessed to receive any personal honor, I always remember that I am the oldest son out of 10 children whose mother was poor and on welfare, whose father was a maintenance man, and whose grandmother was a bootlegger with a second-grade education born in 1899, one generation removed from slavery.”
Through all his accomplishments, Banks said that he still wishes that he could celebrate his successes with his grandmother.
“I wish my grandmother was alive to celebrate with me because she was, and is still, my muse.”