Remember The Storm – Mother Mary Carter Smith

 

As if speaking to us from beyond the grave, the late Mother Mary Carter Smith (1919 – 2007), Co-founder of the National Association of Black Storytellers, advises her community in the aftermath of apparently devastating election results. Although she is discussing a local election in 1993, she very well could have been talking about the 2016 presidential election. The point is, we have been through the storm before; we CAN withstand this storm. This isn’t the worst, and it won’t be the last.

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A likeness of Mother Mary Carter Smith was installed in the National Great Blacks In Wax Museum in Baltimore in 1989. Mother Mary Carter Smith was proclaimed Baltimore’s Official Griot in 1983 and Maryland’s Official Griot in 1991.

Many years ago, I attended a tribute to Mother Mary at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in her adopted hometown of Baltimore Maryland. There, she talked to us–a group of storytellers–about the importance of leaving a legacy. She said she wanted each one of us to receive a copy of a radio broadcast she’d hosted on Morgan University Radio.

Mother Mary Carter Smith hosted “Black Is” on Maryland Public Radio, “The Children’s Hour” in Washington, D.C. and “Griot for the Young and Young at Heart” for over 20 years on Morgan University Radio, WEAA-FM.

As promised, a digital copy of the broadcast was delivered to me.

As I listened, Mother Mary recalled the long, hard struggle by African-Americans to win the right to vote. She recalled that Black people stood in line for hours to participate in the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994.

She reckoned that the local election results “brought home in great force that we, African Americans, are a despised people, looked down upon by many of those in power.”

Then, she recounts a speech which she wrote for the October 29th, 1993 dedication of a slave ship installation at the National Great Blacks In Wax Museum, “Remember the Storm”. An old spiritual runs throughout.

Hard times, she said, we’ve had hard times before. The dreadful march to sea, the Middle Passage….

We’ll stand the storm and it won’t be long. We’ll anchor by-and-by.
We’ll stand the storm and it won’t be long. We’ll anchor by-and-by…

Some jumped overboard. Some chose to survive. To Resist. Always to resist.

We’ve had hard times before. The New World plantations.

Mother Mary goes on to tell the heart-wrenching story of Kizzy, from Alex Haley’s Roots. And sings another round of the hymn.

We’ll stand the storm and it won’t be long. We’ll anchor by-and-by.
We’ll stand the storm and it won’t be long. We’ll anchor by-and-by…

When I see the despair and read the fatalistic lamentations of people around the United States over the baffling results of the 2016 election, I couldn’t help but think of this recording. And, I knew I had to share it with you.

I’m realizing now, again, how much influence Mother Mary has had on me as a storyteller; in the kinds of stories I tell. I am a part of her legacy. And, I am not afraid to stand in the Storm.

In 2015, the Board of Directors of the National Association of Black Storytellers,  Inc., proclaimed (her Birthday)
FEBRUARY 10th as MOTHER MARY CARTER SMITH DAY!

Read the Proclamation

We have come through storms to face new storms. The old chains were of iron.

The new chains have new names. We are in the midst of a storm.

How about the future?

Yet, she said, there is a way out of this storm.

  1. Put down roots in your faith–the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, The African religions–to be lived and not merely recited.
  2. Give an honest day’s work, whatever our work may be.
  3. Reach out and help one another, regardless of our zip codes.

We have come through great storms. We can come thru this one.

We’ll stand the storm and it won’t be long. We’ll anchor by-and-by.
We’ll stand the storm and it won’t be long. We’ll anchor by-and-by…

Take a Listen.

(Audio Clips: “Griot for the Young and Young at Heart” Morgan University Radio, WEAA-FM, 1994.)

 


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Denise Valentine 14963380_10210690475757709_5632598297831898399_na.k.a Storymama, of Philadelphia, PA, is a Professional Storyteller, Historical Performer and Consultant. Denise also serves as the Social Media Coordinator for the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. @NABStalking and an affiliate member of Keepers of the Culture, Inc.

Find Denise on the web: Storymama’s Blog,  Twitter,  Facebook,  and Instagram.