National Association of Black Storytellers Celebrates its 34th Annual “In the Tradition…” Festival & Conference

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National Association of Black Storytellers Celebrates 34 years of the “In the Tradition…”  Festival & Conference

 

The National Association of Black Storytellers Inc. (NABS) is proud to announce its 34th  “In The Tradition…” Annual National Black Storytelling Festival & Conference, The Way We Tell It is The Way It Is, to be held November 2-6, 2016, at the Wyndham Historic District Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. This year’s event, like all others before, is the preeminent place to experience masterful storytellers sharing stories, culture and history from the African diaspora. The annual event is by far the Nation’s finest and features the best of storytelling from the African cultural traditions!

 

“This annual Festival showcases NABS’ vision and creative approach to strengthen our communities through the art of storytelling and collecting, owning and institutionalizing our narratives,” reports Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed, this year’s Festival Director. “NABS’ storytellers will educate and entertain by celebrating the oral tradition that depicts and documents the African-American experience,” stated Karen “ Queen Nur “Abdul-Malik, President of NABS.

Festival Highlights!

The pre-festival event, A Cultural Extravaganza: Philly Style is hosted by Keepers of the Culture: Philadelphia’s Afro-centric storytelling group at the AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM in Philadelphia. The Festival offers a jubilant and culturally rich environment for the entire family, including an Opening Love Circle and two-hour concert. There are few other annual events whereby audiences can hear, feel and see the authentic voice of African American storytellers LIVE-on Stage. On Thursday evening, November 3, 2016, a conversation with the matriarch of the Black Arts Movement. Sonia Sanchez will be a highlight of the week. Co-founder Linda Goss and Dr. Linda Humes will interview the Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, Sister Sonia Sanchez.

 

Other performers include:

  • Award winning, international storyteller, Diane Ferlatte is a traditional preserver of folk history, culture and value whose powerful dynamic characterizations, interactions and animated expressions. Diane tells folktales, fables, and legends that are historical, contemporary, and personal narratives with African, African American and Southern roots.
  • Andrea Fain uses her storytelling voice as a unique ministry to create an ambience that audiences welcome.  Her Afrocentric repertoire brings an awareness of the Black experience and history.
  • Emily Lansana and vocalist, Glenda Zahra Baker came together In Chicago, over twenty years ago to form Performance Duo: In the Spirit. Each performance since then to celebrate the power of the word to connect, uplift and transform.
  • Sonny Kelly, a writer, director and radio host is also a world-class performer, storyteller, motivational, speaker and comedian, who has acted professionally on stage and television for over 20 years. This California man gone Southern gentleman will have the audience rolling in the aisles!
  • Mitchell Capel partners with Sonny Kelly to create “a force to be reckoned with.” As a duo they bring to life untold stories of the hundreds of thousands of unsung heroes whose glory and honor have remained silent for entirely too long. Featuring the original work of Paul Laurence Dunbar, William Cullen Bryant, Raymond Garfield Dandridge, Dr. Rex Ellis and others, this work brings to life an array of African American soldiers, their stories and their struggles.
  • Denise Valentine is a professional storyteller, teaching artist and historical performer who has performed for international audiences of all ages at hundreds of schools, libraries, museums and community events illustrating the power of story to transcend differences between people, transform negativity and inspire hope.
  • Relive the experiences of the ancestors and learn from Atiba Kwabena, who has studied the folklore of Afrika and its western-hemispheric diaspora and currently lectures at Hunter College on the subjects of the “African Origins of Hip-Hop” and the “African Origins of the Blues.”

 

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NABS 2016 Featured Tellers

 

All activities at will take place in the midst of an AFRICAN AMERICAN MARKETPLACE with NABS RESOURCE CENTER where African imports, Afro-centric wearable art, African American literature, Black art, Karamu Corner and intriguing wares will be available for purchase. First-Time attendees, New Members and Old-Timers will also have an occasion to come together during the Akwabaa Gathering to get tips on how to maximize the Festival & Conference experience and get the most out of their NABS membership! A dynamic beginner and advance storytelling workshop will include tips and techniques for performance, teaching & drumming.

 

In addition, NABS Storytellers will come together from across the country to provide over 50 dynamic educational and cultural experiences in Philadelphia’s schools, libraries, museums, correctional facilities, recreation and senior centers, through its National Adopt-a-Teller program. The AFRICAN-AMERICAN HERITAGE TOUR, another special offering, will allow visitors to experience the hallowed grounds of the historic Mother Bethel AME church. Founded in 1787 by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, the church rests upon the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African Americans. Participants will also visit the Lest We Forget Black Holocaust Museum of Slavery, to see artifacts and hardware used during the periods of enslavement and the Jim Crow era.

In honor of Jackie Torrence, the Liar’s Contest has been renamed! Yes, this is the one place where Big Mama won’t mind the children tellin’ a little tall tale! The adults also get a chance to test their lifetime practice of the art!

 

NABS is a nationally organized body with individual, affiliate and organizational memberships throughout the United States.

 

For Registrations

Registration is on-site only!

Download the Festival Flier!

 

For Hotel Reservations:

Please access via www.nabsinc.org using the 2016 Hotel link on home page, or call 215.923.8660, and ask for National Association of Black Storytellers room block. Reservations will be confirmed upon receipt of a valid credit card number or prepayment of one (1) night deposit.

 

For more information contact:

Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed, National Festival Director

afamstorytellers@gmail.com

215.796.2785

TAHIRA, Local Festival Director

TAHIRAprod@gmail.com

302.494.0546

NABS, INC:               Karen Abdul-Malik             609.680.4831   queennur@NABSinc.org

NABS BOOKING:    Vanora Franklin Legaux     410-947-1117  vflegaux@hotmail.com

NABS PR:                  C. Sade Turnipseed              662.347.8198   sade@khafreinc.org

www.NABSinc.org

questions@nabsinc.org

410.947.1117

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RAMONA’S TIPS FOR ENTERING STORYTELLING CONTESTS

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!

INFORMATION ON AESOP, QUINTESSENTIAL TALE SPINNER

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.

SUPPORTING RESOURCES

Aesop Facts and Information

Aethiop/Aesop by Seba Damani (Donald Saunderson)

Variations on Aesop’s Fables-The New York Times

AESOP ONLINE COLLECTIONS

A printable collection of Aesop Fables

Library of Congress Aesop

BOOKS

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.

RAMONA’S TIPS FOR A CONTEST ENTRY

  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.

INSPIRATION FOR YOUR PERFORMANCE

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!

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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 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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
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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!
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 (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

Living the Kwanzaa Principles Year-Round

 Kwanzaa kinara--Virgin Islands

Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Black people have always leaned on their faith when faced with the horrific conditions of enslavement, Jim Crow, and the Red Summer of 1919.  The Red Summer took place when Black soldiers returned home from their tour of duty after World War I.   It was very ironic that Black soldiers fought and died for a country that denied them basic human rights. Many times they were subjected to segregated and inhumane conditions while serving in the United States military.

After their exposure to other cultures in the world and experiencing the horrors of war, Black soldiers returned home as different people. They wanted equal treatment under the law and the same rights as all other Americans.  Many Black soldiers were lynched. Sometimes these lynchings were even committed while they were still wearing their uniforms. Racist White people wanted to protect the idea of “white privilege”. Whites killed so many black soldiers upon their return home that it was called the “Red Summer”.

Our faith gave us courage and hope that things would get better over time. The Civil Rights Movement, as well as many of our schools and colleges were all birthed in the Black church. We are now standing on the faith of our ancestors who fought for us to have a better life. Because of that faith, President Barack Obama is the first African-American President of the United States. He now resides in the White House which our enslaved ancestors helped to build. Now that’s faith!

Kuumba (Creativity): To always do as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

I was asked by the Sunday School Superintendent of my church to develop and chair a Black history program for the students. Having always been involved with the arts, I was happy to be asked to create the program. I developed the program with two purposes in mind: 1. To share African American history through stories, poems and songs and 2. To help build the self-esteem of the children.

One of the parents shared with me that her son was mentally challenged and would not be able to participate on the program. Sharing. with the mother that I would work with each child individually, I told her I would not remove him from the program because I knew he could do it. She said that she would also work with him at home. As we prepared for the program, I treated him just like the rest of the children. Well the day arrived and all of the children’s presentations were wonderful. The children took to the stage to share their poems or songs. The concerned mother’s son recited his poem from memory. She was so proud and thanked me for keeping him in the program.

Over the years other parents have shared concerns about their children’s abilities. My philosophy is always the same. I don’t focus on what they can’t do. I know I will find some way to help the children to accomplish their goals. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to witness the children’s self-esteem spread wings and take flight. I have watched them soar like eagles into adulthood. Creativity is wonderful!

Kay L. Merrill

Kay L. Merrill

 

Kay L. Merrill is a member of the Griot’s Circle of Maryland, the National Association of Black Storytellers, the Arena Players , NAACP and the National Action Network  Ms. Merrill is a former member of the NABS Board of Directors, having recently served as the board’s secretary. She is also an actress, writer, activist and storyteller. The Official Griot for the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP,  Kay L. Merrill was named as  Baltimore’s own Madame C. J. Walker and has been a regular guest storyteller on the  Larry Young  Radio Show and  the Anthony McCarthy Radio Show.

 

Youngest Featured Teller Ever

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Onam Lansana at age 15 is the youngest Featured Teller in the 32 year history of the NABS “In The Tradition…” Festival & Conference. No stranger to the national performance stage, Onam is a member of the Rebirth Poetry Ensemble, a Chicago based teen poetry group that competed in the HBO famed Brave New Voices.

You could say that Onam has performance in his blood. He is the son of Quraysh Ali Lansana, nationally-recognized poet and published author, and Emily Hooper Lansana, one half of the dynamic storytelling duo, In The Spirit. Check out our interview with Onam to learn more about this rising young talent.

What does it mean to you to be a Featured Teller at the NABS “In The Tradition…” Festival & Conference?

It means that I am developing into a strong storyteller. My dream when I was just a little kid coming to the NABS conference has come true a lot earlier than I thought it would and I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity to be able to perform.

How did you get started performing?

I started performing because I wanted to get out of the house. I followed my mom to every show and wanted to try it myself. I started storytelling with the Ase youth group when I was six years old.

What do you see as the difference between a storytelling vs. spoken word artist?

The only difference to me is the fact that as a spoken word artist I have every word planned out but as a storyteller I am less focused on the words and more focused on ideas. In both types of performance I am trying to tell a story. I am working to develop many ways of making stories come to life.

What advice would you give the NABS on how to recruit more youth to be active in the organization?

My advice to NABS to have more youth involved is to let the leadership transition so young people see people they can easily relate to in positions of impact and they can see a goal to reach toward. Also we should have more youth performing throughout the conference not just on the Saturday conference.

What is your most memorable performance and why?

My most memorable performance was performing at the Cadillac Palace Theater in downtown Chicago. This was most memorable to me because it was an opportunity that I have been working toward for most of my life and I performed a poem that meant the world to me because it honored a friend.

 

~TAHIRA

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TahiraPhoto Credit: I Creatively Understand Photography
TAHIRA’s name is legally spelled with all capital letters to serve as a reminder that a storyteller has a HUGE responsibility to the community. TAHIRA, a Featured Teller for the 2014 National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. “In The Tradition” Festival & Conference, she is also the current treasurer and past president of Keepers Of The Culture, Inc., a NABS affiliate. To find out more about TAHIRA visit her website at www.TAHIRAproductions.com

TALK THAT TALK – The Bible of Black Storytelling

This article expandTalk That Talks on Question #15 from the NABS Storytelling Board Game, created by the organizational co-founder, Mama Linda Goss. The answer to that particular question, (“What book is considered the bible of blackstorytelling?”):   Talk That Talk: An Anthology of African-American Storytelling edited by Linda Goss and Marian E. Barnes, (Simon & Schuster, 1989). Not only is Talk That Talk a collection of stories, tales, sermons, poetry and rhymes as told by African Americans, but the work defines the concept of “Blackstorytelling”*, placing it in an historical context. The commentaries following each section support the concept that “blackstorytelling” does not exist in a vacuum, but is part of our cultural collective experience. Mama Linda acknowledges that Talk That Talk was influenced by four previous publications: Book of Negro Folklore by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston, Black Fire by Amiri Baraka and The New Negro by Alain Locke.

In looking for stories in the pre-Google Internet search days, many storytellers consulted the reference books: A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books by Carolyn and John Lima (numerous editions) and The Storyteller’s Sourcebook by Margaret Read MacDonald (1st and 2nd editions). While both of the books were very resourceful, they were limited in their listings of African and African American stories. Thus, African American storytellers began to consult and collect works by many of these authors: Harold Courlander (A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore; A Treasury of African Folklore; Fire on the Mountain; Cow-tail Switch); Augusta Baker and Ellin Greene (Storytelling: Art and Technique); Virginia Hamilton (A Ring of Tricksters; When Birds Could Sing; Herstories; The People Could Fly; Many Thousand Gone); Zora Neale Hurston (Mules and Men; Go Gator and Muddy the Water; Every Tongue Got to Confess); Roger D. Abrahams (Afro-American Folktales, African Folktales); Daryl Cumber Dance (Shucking and Jiving: Folklore from Contemporary Black Americans; Honey Hush: An Anthology of Black Women’s Humor; From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore); Julius Lester (This Strange New Feeling; To Be A Slave; Long Journey Home; Black Folktales; Tales of Uncle Remus; Knee-High Man); William J. Faulkner (The Days When the Animals Talked); Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes (Step it Down: Plays, Songs and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage); Jackie Torrence (Jackie Tales); Nelson Mandela (Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales); Ashley Bryan (Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum; Lion and the Ostrich Chicks; Ox of the Wonderful Horns and other African Folktales).

We cannot overlook the contributions made by NABS, Inc. and its members to the literature of storytelling. In 1995 Linda Goss and Clay Goss edited Jump Up and Say! A Collection of Black Storytelling, and in 2006 Sayin’ Somethin’: Stories from the National Association of Black Storytellers edited by Linda Goss, DylanPritchett and Caroliese Frink Reed, was published by the Association. Our roster of members who publish and promote “blackstorytelling” include Karima Amin, Baba Jamal Koram, Rex Ellis, Linda Goss, Eleanora Tate, Larry Coleman, Mary Carter Smith, Rita Cox, Jackie Torrence, Len Cabral, Bobby Norfolk, David Anderson, Lyn Ford, Diane Williams, Willa Brigham, Linda Cousins-Newton, Gladys Marie-Fry, Temujin, Janice Curtis Greene, Mitch Capel, Charlotte Blake-Alston, Dylan Pritchett , Alice McGill, Brother Blue, Paul Keens-Douglas and many others. NABS, the authentic voice of “blackstorytelling” , continues to raise the bar in “spreading the word” through print and media sources.

My experience as a librarian and commitment to storytelling led me to establish The Storytelling Resource Center as part of Zawadi Books, 2460 Main Street, Buffalo, NY. This Center holds approximately 1,200 books by and about storytelling and storytellers including history and techniques. Many of the books referred to in this article are from that collection. My mission is to support local storytellers as they define and refine the art of storytelling by giving access to resources. Talk That Talk, the bible of Black Storytelling, is a step on that journey.

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* “Blackstorytelling” has been written as one word in some of NABS historical archives and more recently by elder storyteller, Dr.  David “Sankofa” Anderson to show that this is one entity.  According to NABS member, Caroliese Frink Reed: “The distinction between Blackstorytelling (in America) and other storytelling traditions, is that it was and is continually being forged, honed and shaped by the conditions that brought it forth.” (from “The African Oral Traditions” by Caroliese Frink Reed in SAYIN’ SOMETHIN’ , edited by Linda Goss, Dylan Pritchett and Caroliese Frink Reed, NABS, 2006)

–Sharon Jordan Holley

 

Sharon Jordan Holley

Sharon Jordan Holley is a retired librarian and storyteller living in Buffalo, NY.  She is a co-founder of Tradition Keepers: Black Storytellers of Western New York and a lifetime member of NABS.  She is also a recipient of the Zora Neale Hurston  Award.

Photo Credit: Powellful Creations