aesopremixThe National Association of Black Storytellers’ online Storytelling Contest is starting March 27th. This year’s theme “Aesop Remix: Old School for a New Day” opens the door to creative, soul-stirring, heartwarming, social commentary-like, wisdom endowed storytelling!


Aesop is believed to have lived from about 620 to 560 B.C. He was an enslaved Grecian of African (Ethiopian) descent and world renowned master storyteller.  Aesop was known for the wisdom tales told to indirectly persuade human behavior, thought, and decisions.  While his stories were adapted for children, these wisdom tales were often meant to influence adults to behave morally and responsibly.


Aesop Facts and Information

Aethiop/Aesop by Seba Damani (Donald Saunderson)

Variations on Aesop’s Fables-The New York Times


A printable collection of Aesop Fables

Library of Congress Aesop


Aesop’s Fables by Aesop and V.S. Vernon Jones

Aesop: Tales of Aethiop the African by Jamal Koram

Life can get crazy busy, especially when you decide you want to take on a project like…a contest.  I understand interruptions and procrastination all too well. It took me forever just to write this blog.  To give your most compelling delivery it’s going to take some planning.


  1. Mark the deadline, and your chosen start date on a calendar or enter into your phone now.
  2. Mark your personal early deadline for entry on your calendar and phone. Let’s face it, judges will be as fair as possible. But wouldn’t you want to be fresh in their heads with the first set of entries?  Entries at the end will be in view of some pretty tired judges.
  3. Read as many stories as you can, until you find that one that speaks to you, your storytelling style, and inspires a new creation.
  4. Decide if the characters and setting will remain the same or will you change them.
  5. Decide if you will use the same language.  If you place your characters in another setting or time, you may want to use appropriate language.
  6. Rehearse your story and rehearse your story again.
  7. Submit on your chosen deadline date. Celebrate Completion.


Jabu and the Lion
Arit’s Fables (Arit Essien)

Black Storytelling Festival in Hampton
NABS in Hampton, VA

Be sure to visit NABS’ Website on or after March 15, 2016 for information and criteria on our upcoming 3rd National Online Storytelling Contest. Cash Prizes Awarded.

Happy Storytelling!



Ramona King is a member of the NABS Education Committee.  She is the mother of 3 young adults.  For more than 25 years she’s performed at schools, museums, conferences, and Universities with stories for Building Families and the Esteem of Children and Youth.  She is the founder and owner of Catch a Story Productions—providing solo performances, workshops and historical portrayals 












“Did you Say, Middle School?”

Few things can send fear through the hearts of some storytellers than the thought of standing in front of middle school students for storytelling.

Elementary school students are game. They still like tales, and they want to hear them.

There are a myriad of topics for High School Students, and you can actually have conversations about things.

Middle School isn’t like either of those.

The Middle School audience wants to be entertained, is really freaked out about what everyone else is doing, wants to be treated like they are grown, but are actually still children, think that they know more than the adults around them, and are swinging through the first and most pernicious part of puberty. They are, in other words, challenging.

There are tellers who come to mind who we are pretty sure have no problems with middle school.

No doubt Kala Jojo could keep an auditorium of middle school kids enrapt.

What about Madafo Lloyd Wilson, Charlotte Blake Alston?


Well, “sure”, you might say, “Of course they could hold middle schoolers, but what about me?”

I can’t play the Bow Harp!


I don’t even know what this is!


I have an mbira…somewhere.


And, before you ask, no, I most certainly do not have a djembe!


Yes, middle school audiences love music, but they also love language, and you can hook them if you try a few simple steps.

  1. Create Common Ground.  This is a skill we all employ. Though it might seem that this crowd wants nothing to do with anyone, not even themselves half the time, they are as susceptible to hearing things about themselves as the next person. You could begin by asking questions such as, “What were you most worried about when starting school this year?” you could seed the discussion by saying, “When I was in sixth grade, my biggest fear was being laughed at by other people. Does anyone else have this fear?” Questions are a great way to begin.
  2. Shape your stories to deal with the sorts of things that plague or interest this group. This age range deals with a complete renegotiating of who they are and how they live with peers. It is the age where they start giving each other grief about their hair, shoes, clothes, skin tones and all sorts of other things. Belonging is more important than expressing individuality. This is really hard for some kids. Talk about the identity issues, and tell stories that address the feelings of isolation, fear and shame that lots of this age group grapples with on a regular basis.
  3. This is a group of people who do not have their emotions under control, and they are likely to do spontaneous, destructive, charitable, lovely, unpredictable, crazy, out of the blue things. Address this as well, and tell stories about your own foibles, the foibles of other adults through history, or folklore that deals with the perils of acting before you’ve thought about it.
  4. You could also talk about surviving middle school. Focus on the kids who are marginalized, and tell stories that help the kids in the middle realize that someday all of them will be leaving school, and you never know who someone is going to turn out to be in the next ten years.


Don’t write people off just because you don’t see where they might be going!

When you figure out where your audience lives, you can meet them there and take them anywhere!

Happy Telling!

Donna Washington, Storyteller.


Donna is a national storyteller, author, workshop presenter and award winning recording artist.  She has been featured at thousands of schools, festivals and conferences across the country.



You Never Know Who Is Listening



Some years ago I was presenting at the Kentucky Book Fair. It was a miserable, cold, rainy day, and there were over one hundred authors present.

I was due to give a presentation in a tent off the beaten path. When I got there, nobody was there. Over the next ten minutes three people arrived.

  1. The tent monitor
  2. A librarian who had my book
  3. My friend, Louise Hawes, who didn’t want the tent to be empty

Everyone was apologetic that almost nobody came to hear my presentation. The tent monitor suggested I get off of the stage, and just sit quietly with the three of them in the font row. I just shrugged, got  up on the platform and started performing as if the tent were packed.

It sort of shocked the three people in the front row. About ten minutes into my presentation, the tent was packed. People were drawn to the tent, found seats and settled in for the rest of the presentation.

Louise told me she learned something that day. She had cancelled appearances before because the gathering was paltry. I told her that years of doing summer reading in libraries taught me one thing…if the audience outnumbers me, its a show!

Over the years, I have had lots of odd experiences as a teller. The one thing that has been true of all of them is that you just keep telling.


Once, when I was at the Brookfield Zoo during the opening of their Africa exhibit, I was telling “Why Mosquitos Buzz In People’s Ears”, when the audience started snapping photos top speed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure, and when I turned, the baby giraffe had come over and was watching me. It stood there about five feet from me blinking and staring. It remained there for the rest of the story. When I was done, it shook itself like it had come out of a trance, and wandered back towards its mother.

Recently I was telling at a high school where the students began cutting class to come back and listen to later shows. They were unapologetic about their antics, and their teachers were so pleased they were determined to watch more stories, they let them.

The first time I was ever in a situation where I ended up with an audience member who floored me was shortly after I graduated from Northwestern. After my presentation, a woman stopped me and asked if I’d ever written a book. I said, ‘No’, and she gave me her card. That woman turned out to be Katherine Tegen, an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

You never know who is in your audience. You never know what they need, or what they want.

Whether there are two or two hundred, they always deserve everything you’ve got.

Happy Telling!

Donna Washington, Storyteller


Donna is a national storyteller, author, workshop presenter and award winning recording artist.  She has been featured at thousands of schools, festivals and conferences across the country.




33rd “In The Tradition…”Annual National Festival and Conference of Black Storytelling-Victory and Vision

Dylan PritchettJambo! Peace and Blessings, National Association of Black Storytellers family and friends!  Green leaves are turning beautiful fall colors. A little chill greets us in the morning and evening.  Some of us are beginning to pack for that annual Homecoming, Home Gathering of jeliw, storytellers, storylisteners and storylovers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, the New England States, New York, Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, Minnesota, New Jersey, the Mid-West, West Virginia, California, Georgia, Baltimore (the center of the known universe) and beyond. Because, it is time for that annual warm hugging, bright smiling, awesome drumming, tall tale telling, audacious storytelling event, the 33rd “In the Tradition… “Annual National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference.

The organizers have been working extremely hard to ensure that you will witness and testify to another spectacular festival. Dylan Pritchett, Festival Director, has organized trips to and lectures at the National Archives and the Library of Congress and confirmed our special Featured Scholar, Dr. Rex Ellis, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Don’t miss this presentation.

Mama Elisha Minter, our Youth Director promises fun, excitement, storytelling and special surprises for the youth when they gather to share their vision and victories.  She says, “Join us as Mama Linda Goss returns to Howard University (her alma mater) to share words of wisdom with our youth on Friday, November 13th”.

Co-Directors of the Adopt-A-Teller Program (AATP) Stanley “Bunjo” Butler and Linda Gorham were challenged this year to create and implement a successful program. They met that challenge, and with the help of the sponsors, The National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), Nora Roberts Foundation, Lois Lenski Covey Foundation and the McGraw Hill Company, will provide 39 individual performances in 33 venues and the gift of books. Tellers will perform at The Kennedy Center, the District of Columbia’s public libraries, schools, a youth service center and an assisted living facility for adults.

Host Committee Chair, Carol Alexander is excited to bring us a taste of DC Black Broadway: Stories In Music, Dance and Voice. The event will be held Thursday, November 12th at 6:30 p.m., at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I St SW, Washington, DC.  Get ready for KanKouran West African Dance Ensemble Company the Ishingi Family Dance and Drummers, gospel, storytelling and a Thursday night fish fry!

I would also like to acknowledge the transition of our beloved NABS Talking Blog Editor, Sister Linda Cousins Newton. Sister Linda was a gifted writer and editor and her dedication, friendship and commitment I will sorely miss. A true warrior scholar has fallen.  But I am pleased to announce that Donna Washington has stepped forward and will be our guest blog editor for the next several months. Donna is a storyteller, author and blogger and her personal blog post can be found at Language, Literacy and Storytelling: A Discussion About the Links Between Storytelling Language and Literacy.

See you at NABS!


Sister Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed, Chairperson
Education Committee
National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc.


Adinkra symbol from Lyn Ford  “He who does not know can know from learning”

The subject line for an email sent to Storytell listserve read, “Borrowing or stealing?”

Storyteller Meg Gilman wrote that her workshop had been “borrowed” by someone else without her knowledge or permission:

“It’s nice that folks recognize a good thing when they experience it and I appreciate that, but it’s crappy for me when I see my workshop being presented at a conference by someone else…  It breaks my heart, frankly… My workshops offer information for people to ‘use in their work’, [not to be] recycled with someone else’s name on them… One reaction I had to this last situation is whether I will be able to present my original workshop again, without appearing to have copied the ‘copier’.”

Such “borrowing” has happened to other hard-working tellers, including me.  Most story-sharers ask for my permissions (and receive them, with info on how to credit, or suggestions for researching/creating variations, and my blessing either way).  But I’ve heard a few of my versions of stories, (and my family’s), memorized by someone else and told onstage without acknowledgement, as well as included without permission in some workshop material. Without a lot of noise or animosity, I let others know whose hard work was really being shared.

A teller who aspires to be professional should honor the familial story experience or creative property, research, preparation, recording and/or writing and submission for publication of the source. Otherwise, that teller doesn’t deserve the honor of the story, for that teller has no claim to the process.

For works of orature, the concern is a moral issue more than a copyright infringement.  In every storyteller’s work–spoken or printed or otherwise recorded, danced, drummed, or preserved in any way–is a part of that artist’s soul.  You can’t “borrow” a storyteller’s soul.

Storyteller and humanitarian Laura Simms responded on Storytell, “For those of us who have devoted our lives to this work with original thinking, regard for cultures, and very dedicated work on stories and workshops, it is disheartening to have work outrightly stolen, and misused, etc. in the name of storytelling.  There is no other art form that is as relational and profoundly effective because of the presence of a living artist.”

Before you tell anyone else’s story, consider:  Is it yours to tell, or have you simply and strongly connected with it?  Is it from your personal, cultural knowledge base, or would your telling be considered secondhand hearsay—someone else’s story?  If you “must” tell it, will you speak with its source, and ask where it originated (it might be an original piece that sounds like a folktale; it might be from a literary source, which means telling it might be a copyright infringement)?  Then ask your source, “If I credit your work, may I tell your story”?  If the answer is no, accept that and do your own work.

Before you use anyone else’s workshop materials, there is only one question to ask the author of the work:  Do I have your permission to quote from your work?  There is no other question; the use of anyone’s recorded material (CD, DVD, printed, even when it has no copyright symbol) is illegal.  Period.  No, exclamation point!

If you’re aware of someone stealing your intellectual work, tell them and others. Claiming and reclaiming your work (and protecting what you must from your created orature and original, researched literature through copyright) is what should be done.

  • Lyn Ford

Lyn Ford--May 2015Lynette (Lyn) Ford is a fourth-generation Affrilachian storyteller and teaching artist for the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education and the Ohio State-Based Collaborative Initiative of the Kennedy Center, and a member of NABS’ Circle of Elders.  Lyn is also an author, mentor for young writers for the Thurber House, great-grandmother, and proud member of the Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers (CABS). (Lyn’s highly-acclaimed work, Affrilachian Tales:  Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition, was reviewed in the Fall 2014 issue of Spread The Word, the NABS print newsletter.)

To join Storytell, “a worldwide online community” listserve supported by the National Storytelling Network, go to http://www.storynet.org/storytell.html

Adinkra symbol (depicted with beginning quote):  NEA ONNIM NO SUA A, OHU whose source is   Cloth As Metaphor by G.F. Kojo Arthur

A glimpse of the dilemma for spoken word artists and creative copyrights—Chapter 8, “Categories of Copyright Work” can be read, in Intellectual Property Law by Helen Norman.  Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 2014.

The People Who Disappeared by Temujin the Storyteller

“The master, the overseer, and the driver looked after them as they flew, beyond the wood, beyond the river, miles on miles, until they passed beyond the last rim of the world and disappeared in the sky like a handful of leaves.  They were never seen again.  Where they went I do not know. . .”

The passage above comes a story titled “All God’s Chillun Had Wings”, which was first recorded by the Federal Writers’ Project, an organization committed to, among its other projects, documenting the stories of African-Americans that had been passed down to them by their ancestors. “All God’s Chillun Had Wings” was published in Drums and Shadows: Survival Studies among the Georgia Coastal Negroes, which was produced in the early 1900s.

The story appeared in The Book of Negro Folklore, a collection of folktales compiled in 1958 by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps.  The late Virginia Hamilton re-worked the story as a children’s picture book called The People Could Fly which was published in 1985.

The story I have to tell is about 53 enslaved Africans, including 28 adults and  25 children who could not fly; instead they disappeared. My story begins during a time when slavery existed in all 13 colonies.  A man named John Neville purchased his first two slaves, Harvey and Joe, in 1767.  John Neville also purchased the land that would become the site of my story plus 14,000 more acres of land in 1774 in what was then Western Virginia, later becoming Western Pennsylvania.   One year later in 1775  the enslaved Africans living there began to develop the land and to construct Woodville, the first manor house.  Neville served as the commander of Ft. Pitt (Ft. Dunmore) on behalf of the Virginia colony. When the American Revolutionary War broke out, he fought until 1780.

During the time John Neville was away at war, the enslaved Africans on his plantation continued developing the land and building the Woodville manor house. When Neville, now a general,  returned home in 1780 to what had become Western Pennsylvania, due to the survey done by Mason and Dixon, he was compelled to register 21 of the enslaved Africans–nine females and twelve males–under the Pennsylvania Gradual Emancipation Act of 1780.  Were it not for this state boundary, the enslaved Africans held in bondage by the Neville family might not have been freed at that time and could well have remained enslaved for the rest of their lives.

In the 1790s Bower Hill, a second manor house was built by the enslaved Africans on Neville’s estate. It was perhaps the greatest Pennsylvania mansion west of the Allegheny Mountains.  The Africans enslaved by the Neville family on the Woodville and Bower Hill plantations had a wide range of skills and trades.  They served as lumberjacks, distillers, carpenters, joiners, husbandmen (“ranchers”), and  engaged in other of the farm trades. Those who were skilled in the art of distilling manufactured whiskey, the cash crop on the Neville plantations. The Bower Hill Plantation boasted a 500-gallon still, the largest in Western Pennsylvania.

Not only were Neville’s enslaved African given the tasks of development and construction, the defense of the lands, buildings, everything else was also in their hands. John Neville armed his enslaved Africans, as did many frontier plantation owners. Therefore skilled marksmen could be added to the list of things at which the enslaved Africans on the Neville plantations were talented.

A small proof of this is found in the story of two of the enslaved children on the Bower Hill plantation.  In November of 1784, 11-year old Will and his 8-year old brother Putnam got permission to hunt a wolf that had been attacking the sheep. These two boys successfully killed a 100-pound wolf; their exploits are a matter of record.  Ten years later, in 1794,  these young marksmen would employ their firearms skills in defense of the Bower Hill manor house.

When I first read about the Battle of Bower Hill and the fact that enslaved Africans who lived there participated in the defense of the property, I was puzzled.  In time I learned that the plantations at Woodville and Bower Hill were not the full-time homes of the Neville family, who actually resided in the city of Pittsburgh. The plantations were a source of income while the manor houses were, for lack of a better word, vacation homes.

The plantations at Woodville and Bower Hill were, however, the full-time homes of the 53 enslaved Africans.  They had built the Woodville house and other buildings, developed the land, planted the crops, and distilled the whiskey, the cash crop, while the Nevilles, both John and his son Presley, fought in the revolution.

The enslaved Africans had lived on the Woodville plantation and later Bower Hill since 1775, a span of 19 years. They had taken mates and raised children there.  Woodville and later Bower Hill were much more their homes than they ever were the homes of the Neville family.

Due to public resentment about an excise tax on both homemade and commercial whiskey , an armed revolt would be fomented.  On July 16th at least 30 Mingo Creek militiamen  surrounded  Bower Hill, Neville’s fortified home. General Neville was a tax collector and a federal marshal who had been serving writs on those who had not paid their taxes. He had taken refuge there. With the Bower Hill house being situated on a hill, Neville saw the militia coming and immediately called the African men to arms. I am quite sure that the African defense force included Will and his brother Putnam, the wolf slayers, who were now 21 and 18 respectively.

The Mingo Creek militiamen demanded the surrender of the federal marshal whom they believed to be inside. General John Neville responded by firing a gunshot that mortally wounded Oliver Miller, one of the “rebels”.  The rebels opened fire. They were surprised by in turn being fired upon from the slave quarters. When the call to arms was given, at least 14 African men, perhaps even more, took up arms and fought a two-day battle against the Whiskey Rebels.  Since we have no idea how many male children of the 25 children had grown to adulthood by 1794, there could have been a sizable force of African musketeers at the battle of Bower Hill, perhaps 20 or more.

The rebels were unable to dislodge Neville and the other defenders. The rebels then retreated to nearby Couch’s Fort to gather reinforcements and spent a good part of their time on the 16th and 17th getting drunk. They  returned to Bower Hill on July 17th. Their numbers had swelled to nearly 600 men, now commanded by Major James McFarlane, a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  Neville had also received reinforcements which included ten American soldiers from Fort Lafayette in Pittsburgh under the command of Major Abraham Kirkpatrick, a brother-in-law of Neville’s wife.  Before the rebel force arrived, Kirkpatrick had Neville leave the house and hide in a nearby ravine.

After some negotiations, the women and children were allowed to leave the house; both sides then began firing. After about an hour, McFarlane called for a cease-fire.   According to some, a white flag had been waved in the house.   As McFarlane stepped into the open, a shot came from the house, and McFarlane fell, mortally wounded. The enraged rebels then set fire to the house and Kirkpatrick surrendered.

The number of casualties at Bower Hill is unclear, and there is no mention of the numbers of the African defenders who were wounded or killed in the fray; defenders who had stood their ground and fought so bravely during the fierce two-day battle. McFarlane and one or two other militiamen were killed; one U.S. soldier may have died from wounds received in the fight.  The rebels sent the American soldiers away and then  proceeded to destroy more of Neville’s property, dividing up all of the remaining whiskey from the 500-gallon still.

I can only assume that the Africans escaped down the wooded hillside that led to the Woodville manor house since none were captured. I am convinced that had any of the African defenders surrendered, it would not have gone well for them. After all, they had been involved in killing or attempting to kill White men.

General Neville made his way to Philadelphia to report what had happened at Bower Hill. A militia force was called up from New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and eastern Pennsylvania. in 1794. Headed for Pittsburgh, this federalized militia force of 12,950 men was a large army by American standards of the time.  The rebels who had attacked Bower Hill had no desire to fight such a force of Revolutionary War veterans. In essence, the Whiskey Rebellion in the Pittsburgh area had come to an end.

The Bower Hill house was never rebuilt, and the enslaved Africans who defended it are not mentioned again, although they must have continued to reside at the Woodville plantation.  About five years later, as a partner of Andrew Montour,  General Neville acquired Montour’s Island in a land dispute and moved there.  The island, which was named for the Native American interpreter, Andrew Montour, became the place where Neville spent his final years. We can only assume that the enslaved Africans moved there with him.

These enslaved Africans on John Neville’s landholdings unfortunately became invisible to history after the battle of Bower Hill. In fact, quite a few historians don’t even write about their valiant participation  in the battle of Bower Hill, as though they had not been there.  They remained invisible to history for nine years between 1794 and 1803 when General John Neville died.

John Neville died on July 29, 1803; his dying request to his son, Presley Neville, and his son in-law and plantation overseer, Isaac Craig, was that the enslaved Africans  be manumitted–and they were.  Presley Neville and Isaac Craig looked after them as they rode and walked, “beyond the woods, beyond the river, miles on miles, until they passed beyond the last rim of the world and they all disappeared like a handful of leaves in the wind.  They were never seen or heard from again.”  Where they went, no one knows. . .

–Temujin Ekunfeo

Temujin  Babalosa Obalorun Temujin Ekùnféo (Temujin The Storyteller) was initiated in1978 by Afro-Cubans and African Americans as a Priest (Babalosa) in the Lukumi Yoruba tradition which was established in Cuba by captives brought to Cuba during the days of the slave trade. Temujin has performed throughout the country since 1968.   His list of talents includes lecturer, workshop developer, musician, and instrument maker. As both a scholar and performer of African culture Temujin feels a strong commitment to researching African Folklore from the Americas as well as from the continent of Africa and shares it by means of family-oriented, audience-participatory storytelling programs and experiential “Playshops” for youths and adults.

Celebrating NABS Folk Art Creator – Carolyn “Kooki” Davis

With the curtains closing on Women’s HerStory Month 2015, as with Black History Month, one contemplates that one short month is far from sufficient to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of either women or contributors to the African diaspora
Upon further thought, one also becomes aware that the great ones who have traversed our lifepaths extend far beyond the courageous global sisters depicted on a couple of my favorite t-shirts depicted here, but also to those who have crossed and blessed our contemporary everyday existence.  Whether it be the grandmother who taught us the art of storytelling, the teacher who guided us to see and explore our deepest potential, or the sister friend whose awe-inspiring personal art or literature enhances our lives, we learn that history is not always remote or of bygone eras but is also an ongoing sometimes very personal unfoldment of life-lifting events and people.
My friend, Rev. Hasifa Rahman, frequently honored me by labeling me a “living ancestor”; however, there are innumerable living ancestors throughout our world, if we only have the vision to behold.  NABS is replete with such diversely talented ancestral contributors, beginning with our co-founder, Mama Linda Goss.
 On the occasions when I have been blessed to chat with this walking storehouse of history and folklore, the conversation has soared far beyond an ordinary chat to one of rich sharings of literary, art, and folklore resources, as well as a plethora of information on outstanding contemporary contributors right in our midst.
Now for a bit of griot “indirection”, my grandson has been enthralled with mermaids ever since he has been able to talk.  Although he has a “gazillion” toys both at home and at Grandma’s place, his most profound play time seems to revolve around the fringed bookmarks I ordered from the Asamoah family kente weavers of Ghana; a few of them comprise his “mermaids” of varying personalities (and sometimes “attitudes”!)  As time has moved on, my interest has also expanded from collecting Seminole memorabilia for my Black Seminole lectures and exhibits to collecting Black mermaid jewelry and literature,  inspired largely by the Mama Linda sharings and the Black Mermaids group I joined on Facebook.
In addition, I have come to deeply appreciate the great folkloric art, particularly the Black mermaid creations, of one the contemporary great NABS contributor, Carolyn (“Kooki”) Davis of Seattle, Washington.Kooki's pics--bio  A Caribbean-born storyteller as well as wearable art and ancestral doll creator, Kooki is renowned for her show-stopping coats, vests, and jackets, several of which have been purchased right off her back; (only to reveal an equally gorgeous piece layered underneath).
Mama Linda amusingly relates how one of these colorful traffic stoppers  initially  brought her and the renowned Black quilters historian and anthologist, Gladys-Marie Frye together, when she so admired Kooki’s captivating coat creation that she felt that she immediately  had to get contact information for this artist from Mama Linda, who was subsequently shocked to find that the person so taken with her garment was the great ancestral contributor whom she would later come to affectionately call “Mama Frye”.  The rest, of course, is decades-long “herStory.”
 Having accomplished the phenomenal task of creating 75 commissioned Mother Mary dolls for NABS’ other beloved co-founder, Mother Mary Carter Smith, Kooki has continued to create a body of work–wearable art and dolls–which is in the collections of proud owners across the nation.  She poetically relates that her inspiration for her work flows from “…every flower, every tree, every woman I see.”
I am particularly proud of her stunning mermaids which have recently swam into my world and of the grandma quilter doll (with her own mini quilt) which reigns in a spot of honor in my ancestral hallway, a tribute to the many talented quilters who have crossed and blessed my life.  Then there is the kente-clad “wisdom seeker” with knowledge keys for hands.  Lastly, just check out, if you will, the piercing gaze of the fur-bedecked mid-aged doll whom I call “the mermaid diva”.  What a story this fiercely proud sister mermaid has to tell.  She has evidently paid her dues!
IMG_2615 IMG_2594IMG_2833
 (Kooki Davis photo above- courtesy Carolyn “Kooki” Davis; Yemaya doll in blue – photo credit:  Jeanette (Moonsong) Mallory Hill 2015;  collage/ancestral tribute at Hampton photos:  Linda Cousins-Newton 2015; (the mermaid necklace in the bottom left collage photo is a Deb DiMarco creation.)  The closing photo (bottom left) depicts NABS co-founder, Mama Linda Goss, an ardent tree lover, paying tribute to the ancestors with other griots at the Emancipation Oak at Hampton University, Hampton, VA during the NABS Conference & Festival pilgrimage there in Nov of 2013.  She wears an ancestral tree-bedecked garment designed for her by Kooki  in honor of the occasion.) 
Collecting of the work of this great living ancestor and supremely talented folklore artist, Kooki Davis, is an artistic life enhancement, as I’m sure many NABS members and “Kooki creation collectors” would agree.  I am so pleased that I have learned to recognize that historymakers and contributors are not always of the distant past but oftentimes those like this skilled folkloric artist who actually grace our contemporary world.
–Linda Cousins-Newton