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.

**********************

* “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

Rally for Stevie Wonder

 

The Story Board Game Blog Series Entry II

We are proud to present our second blog in this series and the first by one of our NABS Historians, Sister Gloria Black of Buffalo, NY.   Sister Black’s blog will take many of us down a beautiful memory lane. Take a moment to read and send Sister Black a reply.

Rally for Stevie Wonder  by Gloria Black

In 2012 while surfing the web in pursuit of where do I go from here, after self-publication of two family books,  Seek and Ye Shall Find and Operation Save a Generation, I found the National Association of Black Storytellers’ website.  I joined online. More seeking led me to the Tradition Keepers: Black Storytellers of Western New York of which I became a member.

Illness and winter nights kept me from being involved the way I wanted to be;  yet I didn’t give up.  God’s time is the only way for me to go with a smile!  I can’t thank Mama Linda enough for the board game.  “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.”  When  NABS reminded me that we don’t just tell the story, we live the story, I got the Holy Spirit and flashbacks of yesteryears.

For my personal assignment, I chose question ten of the board game, which asks:  HOW MANY CIVIL RIGHTS/HUMAN RIGHTS DEMONSTRATIONS, SIT-INS, PROTESTS, MARCHES, RALLIES, ETC. HAVE YOU PARTICIPATED IN?  NAME THEM.

Stevie Wonder for BlogDSC02011

There were two rallies and many protests.  My first rally took place in the 1980’s.  I attended a concert given by the great musician, Stevie Wonder.  Needless to say, the concert was sold out.  Stevie of course rocked the house with his performance, but when he did his new single, “Happy Birthday”, he brought down the house.  We all were in the groove with his lyrics and his music.  The emcee asked everyone to stand and join in.  That’s when the spirit became intense.  The audience began to shout that we wanted a holiday passed by Congress to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  When the lights were turned on, I saw that I wasn’t the only one with a tear-soaked face.  We were told that petitions were at the concert as well as in circulation around the world and that each one of us could sign our names before we left the building.

Stevie Wonder popularized the campaign in 1980 and hosted the Rally for Peace press conference in 1981. Six million signatures were collected for petitions to Congress to pass the law making Dr. King’s birthday an official holiday.  According to Paul Andrews (1985) of The Seattle Times, this petition was the largest petition drive in favor of an issue in U.S. history.

Finally, at the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan, signed a bill proposed by Representative Katie Hall of Indiana, creating a Federal holiday to honor Dr. King.   This long-awaited tribute was observed for the first time on January 20th, 1986.

A statement by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in his book, The Mis-Education of the Negro, sums up in part the NABS philosophy:    “The Negro can be made proud of his past only by approaching  it scientifically themselves, and giving their own story to the world” (p. 124)

References
Andrews, P. (1985, January). Making the calendar. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from
http://www.seattletimes.nwsource.com/special/mlk/perspectives/holiday/

Black, G. (2010). Operation save a generation. Cedar Rapids: Eagle Book Bindery.

Black, G. (2010). Seek and ye shall find. Cedar Rapids: Eagle Book Bindery.

Woodson, C. G. (1933). The Mis-Education of the Negro. Kindle Version.

Photo Credit:

Stevie Wonder – Thomas Hawk – Flickr Photos

Wax Statue of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.  from The National Great Blacks in Wax  Museum , Baltimore, MD.

(NABS Festival and Conference Tour, 2013) – Linda Cousins-Newton, Photographer.

 

**************************

If you are interested in submitting a blog for publication, please contact Caroliese Frink Reed, NABS Education Chair, at afamstorytellers@gmail.com  or Sister Linda Cousins-Newton, Blog Administrator, at Akan@aol.com.

We Don’t Just Tell the Story–We WEAR the Story!

Image

(There was no room in this collage to give a description of the bottom photos.  At left is the Seminole patchwork jacket adorned with mudcloth from Ghana, mudcloth cap, and accompanied by a Seminole patchwork vest and  mudcloth and liberation earrings (Shaz Gallery of Brooklyn jewelry designs).  Perfect for packing to wear at my NABS workshop on African-Amerindian Connections.  (At right, one of those NABS Vendors’ Marketplace finds I couldn’t resist–a mudcloth “mosaic” coat that is still stopping traffic (sidewalk traffic at least) whenever I wear it with that sassy matching hat, pants, and bag).  Didn’t have an inch of room in my luggage to pack it after NABS 2012, so I wore it home–and have been joyfully wearing it ever since.)
Among the myriad cultural delights of the annual NABS Festivals are beholding the warm-spirited multi-talented griots as they resplendently bring the ancestral Village to the varied national venues of the festival, telling the age-old story in word, song, dance, and most definitely in artistic attire.  One can dress casually and comfortably at NABS and feel right at home; then one can also “fall out sharp”, as the Tennessee elders would say, in Africancentric attire, turning heads and lifting minds wherever one steps through not only telling the story but wearing the story.
A special part of the exciting itinerary at the Festival are visits to the Vendors’ Marketplace where one can find all manner of eye-catching, reasonably-priced outfits, jewelry, and home decor for the outer self as well as books, music, and spoken Word items to usher the mind and soul to new levels of knowledge, wisdom, and relaxed enjoyment.  NABS attendees are passionate about supporting the businesses of our people, so not only do many return home with luggage bulging with new outfits, literature, and music, but to encourage further support and appreciation of the global vendors and their unique offerings, the Vendors’ Marketplace is also set aside as a site for “Village Storytelling” and/or welcoming first-time attendees of the festival.
Attending NABS provides a treasure chest of enduring cultural memories and to top it off, if one is so inclined, a closet full of wearable art to grace one’s being until one can return to share, shop, listen, learn, and be both elevated and motivated at the next unforgettable NABS  Festival venue.
 Image

Top left, Former Festival Director Br. Akbar Imhotep of Atlanta, a proud African storyteller shining forth like the sun in rich gold–a perfect place to stand in front of the colorful quilt of beautifully attired queen sisters;  bottom left, Baba Jamal  Koram (left) of North Carolina and Oba William King (right) of Chicago, master drummers and griots, who dress the story as skillfully as they drum, sing, and share the Word.)  Check out the unique, patchwork vest of Brother Dylan Pritchett (right) of Virginia another former NABS Festival Director.  As he accepts the award for his dedicated service, he’s accompanied by a Br. Dylan doll which just has to be a fabulous  Kooki Davis creation.  The l’il brother has evidently had a busy day catching all of the NABS sights and sounds.  He had to kick off those shoes and give his feet a break!  )

NABS is replete with Africancentric scholars, researchers, artists and performers covering the waterfront of griot contributions.  When we gather, as mentioned in this post, one will find a diverse range of beautiful ancestral garments including geles and ensembles made from the cloth purchased or imported from the Continent.  Here are a couple of titles of possible interest in regard to this attire displayed in our “wearing the story”:

HEADWRAPS – A Global Journey – Georgia Scott.  Public Affairs, NY. 2003.

INDIGO – In Search of the Color That Seduced the World – Catherine E. McKinley.  Bloomsbury USA, NY, 2011.

—Linda Cousins-Newton
Brooklyn, NY
copyright (c) Ancestral ProMotions 2014