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

nabs-header

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.”

 

nabs-2016-featured-tellers

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

###

 

 

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!

UNTIL UHURU,

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

ETHICS: YOU CAN’T “BORROW” A STORYTELLER’S SOUL

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 Black Storytellers APP: The Cowtail Switch – A symbol of Authority, Prestige and Prominence

cowtailswitchcollage4

African American Storytellers are most familiar with the cowtail switch through a story that has been declared a requirement in a Black Storyteller’s repertoire. “The Cow-tail Switch,” as collected from West Africa by Harold Courlander, is a tale in which we learn that as long as we call out the names and tell the stories of our ancestors, we keep them alive. In the story, the child who earns the cow-tail switch is the one who inquires as to the whereabouts of his father after a long absence, as opposed to the other children who apply their talents to aid in the father’s return after he was found.

The story brings to light ancient symbolism of the cow-tail switch, sometimes referred to as the fly whisk. Its significance has been deemed both authoritarian and spiritual. A King’s whisk upon the shoulder could mean a change of circumstance, and the Yoruba Orisha, Oya’s irukere (cowtail switch) is known to cause wide spread transformation through her forceful winds. Centuries old and laden with stories, the importance of the cowtail switch is legendary until this day.

Many African presidents and tribal chiefs carry a fly-whisk as a badge of authority to processes with his switch at traditional ceremonies. This past December,”Who will Inherit Kajwang’s Fly-whisk,” was a newspaper headliner. The winner of the Kenyan political campaign was marked by his ability to work his fly-whisk:

It was Raila’s turn next. Waving a black fly-whisk, he knew how to work the crowd. He demanded obedience and acceptance of his newly appointed ODM officials, those previously labeled Jubilee moles and rebels who were excelling in singing “Raila for president”.

In total control, waving the black fly-whisk and singing “Mapambano”, Raila was the inheritor of Kajwang’s mantle. – Business Daily, December 8, 2014.

nana opoku collageWhen visiting Ghana last May, I had the honor of interviewing, Nana Opoku one of the Asantehene of Kumasi’s protectors and orators. To the left you see Nana rendering all the names and attributes of the King while the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, stands before him holding his symbol of authority – the white-tailed cowtail switch. To the right is a photo of Nana during our interview.

Here in America, it is the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. (NABS) that carries on the empowering tradition. We continue, perpetuate and promote “In the Tradition…” the customs and rituals of the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. which are rooted in our African Heritage.

Mother Mary Carter Smith, the co-Founder of NABS brought the cowtail switch to the NABS. During the 1980’s she used the cowtail switch as she told the Cow-tail Switch story.   In 1992, the cowtail switch was ceremoniously bestowed upon the third president of NABS, Baba Jamal Koram during the 10th Anniversary of the Annual National Black Storytelling Festival in Baltimore, MD. Since then, it has been known as the “Passing of the Cowtail Switch Ceremony.” However, the cowtail switches were either borrowed or belonged to that President.

Part of my quest while traveling in Ghana was to bring back a cowtail switch that would be the permanent property of NABS. But first, it had to be regaled to reflect its authority, prestige and prominence. The journey began in Accra where the switch was purchased. A few days later, I traveled to the historical bead market of Koforidua, where Yoseda Hasan helped me search for brass beads to symbolize our co-founders – The Sankofa (Mother Mary Carter Smith) and the Asante Stool (Linda Goss, NABS 1st President). Understanding the royal nature of the switch, Yoseda extended its handle. Upon my return to the states, the switch was shipped to Pittsburgh, PA where Temujin Ekunfeo masterfully beaded the switch using red, black and green glass beads to represent the national collective consciousness of our people and cowry shells to exemplify wealth. Butterflies were added in memory of Brother Blue (Hugh Morgan) and to symbolize the transition between presidents. The esteemed switch received its distinguished finishing touches from Nashid Ali of Philadelphia, PA, who jeweled NABS brass acronym and logo.

The NABS Pnabscowtailswitchresidential Cowtail Switch is one-of-a-kind and considered high ceremonial regalia. It will be exhibited and stored at the National Great Black and Wax Museum in Baltimore, MD. Illustrious yet functional, the President will carry the switch during special occasions, for it symbolizes:

Honor: Honoring the incoming President and giving him/her the authority to preside over of the NABS’ Board, and to represent the organization, as witnessed and recognized by the membership of NABS.

Respect: Honoring the collective works and continuing efforts of the NABS association family, including contributions by the elders and ancestors.

Wisdom: Using African/Universal wisdom to guide and uplift our youth. “To know is good. To learn is better. To teach and share is best of all.”

Remembrance: Remembering our ancestors: “The ancestors are alive as long as we remember to tell their stories.

It is a great honor to be the bearer of the National Association of Black Storytellers’ Presidential Cowtail Switch.

____________________________________________________________________________________________-

queenheadinwhiteKaren “Queen Nur” Abdul-Malik is the 14th President of the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. and a lauded National Storyteller, Teacher Artist and Cultural Worker with a Masters in Arts in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College. She is the winner of MidAtlantic Artists-As-Catalyst Awards, NSN Brimstone Grant, and featured in the book Legendary Locals of Willingboro.   She is the founder and executive director of In FACT, Inc. , a cultural sustainability organization.

Resources: Cowtail Switch and Other Stories by Harold Courlander; Business Daily; Smithsonian Institute Collections; Look for Me In the World Wind by Makeda Kemit; The Yoruba Religious Concepts.

Story Weaving, Story Sharing, Story Gathering Time!

By Linda Cousins- Newton

“Time sho’ does fly!” Can you believe it– In a little less than a month, hundreds of us from across the country and the world will once more be NABS-bound to be blessed with both the sharing and receiving of stories from some of the world’s greatest word-weaving artists. I have been contemplating for months how I will best open my mind, heart, and soul to reveal the stories lodged there during my workshop on the African-Amerindian Connections and Coalitions and in portraying the humbly great ancestor, ‘Aunt Chona, the Black Seminole Horse Trainer and Love Warrior.”

As my Georgia-born, Tennessee-dwelling Grandmama Anna Pearl, would have said, “Well, chile. I don’t know why in the world you sittin’ ’round doing so much thankin’ ’bout it.  Jes go out there, git outa the way, and let the good Lord use you to do your thang.” My first informal (and unsuspecting) mentor in the art of storytelling (while stirring up a delectable “pot” over the kitchen coal stove or while sitting around the fireplace on cold Tennessee nights–uh-oh, dating myself, aren’t I?!); well, Mama, as we all called her, just let the stories flow from her heart; no rehearsals, no mics, no costumes–just soul-based, spirit-shared stories that remained with the hearer for a lifetime.

And so taking my cue from that wise family griot–(who, puzzled, would’ve wrinkled her brow upon hearing that strange word “griot”)–I, too, will get out of the way and let the ancestors and the creative Spirit mold, shape, and share these profound stories in the best way possible through the consciousness of my being. Then I will combine my years of training as a teacher to hopefully take it “another further” by engaging the varied learning styles and five senses of those sister-brother story partakers; by incorporating music, art, a dab of poetry, and eye-pleasing visuals in spreading the Word of both the well-known and little-known cultural linkages and collective freedom quests of the African descendants and Amerindian freedomists who joined hearts, minds, love, and powerful military skills “way back when” (as Grandmama Anna Pearl would say) in our history and our herStory.

While it is a challenge, albeit a positive one, to unfold the consciousness in storytelling to a room full of master storytellers and long-time ancestralists; with the warm, loving, encouraging NABS audience, it is also a supreme delight as these story carriers and story sharers relish knowledge gathering and soul liftings. I not only daily read, ponder and research these stories, I live the story and walk the history in my daily life, so much so that the Divine Parent arranged for my marriage into a Black Seminole family and took me to the ancestral homeland with Mother Tubman’s family and her own ever-active spirit.

Yes, I believe I’ve got “some mighty good story stuff” to serve on the plates of these living ancestors, Mama. I hope to make the ancestors (including you) and the Supreme Artist of the universe proud in doing this work. And as with your stories told to the family and the l’il shy Tennessee poet “way back when”, I pray that these ancestral stories flowing from my soul will remain with the hearers for a lifetime–and far beyond. (Then I can breathe a sigh of relief, “rare back”, and enjoy the other stories flowing from the souls of these master story weavers and living ancestors from around the world.)

Linda Cousins-Newton is the Director, Ancestral Promotions in New York.

A Word About Storytelling in General and Blackstorytelling in Particular

Caroliese Frink Reed, Ph.D. Candidate, Temple University

Image

I stand myself and my art squarely on the self-defining ground
of the slave quarters, and find the ground to be hallowed
and made fertile by the blood and bones of the men and women
who can be described as warriors on the cultural battlefield
that affirmed their self-worth. As there is no idea that cannot be
affirmed by black life, these men and women found themselves to be
sufficient and secure in their art and their instructions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                           —-August Wilson (1996)

Storytelling is an oral tradition. It allows us to convey through words the events and experiences of our lives and the lived experiences of others. Practitioners of this ancient tradition are deemed storytellers.

A good story should have a story arc-a beginning, middle and end. The beginning should allow the listener to enter the story safely, but expectant of events to come. The tone of the story-joyful, romantic, humorous, heroic, optimistic-should be set or attained in the beginning. This also can be accomplished with the tone and timbre of your voice.

The middle should present conflict or the problem to be resolved. This will build a delightful tension for your listeners that will hold them spell-bound or have their eyes wide or holding their breath. When the story is concluded, listeners will recall this emotion and characterize your story as “good” or “not so good”. This is the turning point, often called the climax of the story.

The ending or conclusion should resolve the problem or conflict. It brings harmony and balance and restores stasis to the world that you have introduced to the listener. The audience should have received a message from the story and should be satisfied, if not happy. But we know all stories do not have a happy ending. Blackstorytelling concerns itself with the historical events, social issues and cultural manifestations of African-American people.

Brother David Anderson/Sankofa of Rochester, New York tells us that “Blackstorytelling includes the body of traditional stories and new stories that inform and promote the humanity of African American people” (Anderson 31).

In performance mode, African-American Storytellers should concern themselves with certain aesthetic principles of Blackstorytelling – rhythm, rhyme, repetition and call and response. These aesthetic principles are demonstrated in other forms of African American expressive art, e.g. dance, music, spoken word and a good Sunday morning sermon.

African American storytellers should present imagery that is veracious and consistent with the values, mores and mythoforms of African American culture.

The language of Blackstorytelling is always creative, innovative, inventive, sometimes containing words or phrases unique to the culture or imbued with special meaning or emotion for that community.

Blackstorytelling is an organic force that is alive and well and fruitful. The more you give to Blackstorytelling, the more you will receive.

WORKS CITED 

Anderson, David. “A Sacred Trust.” Storytelling Magazine:The Empowering Practice of Blackstorytelling 19:5 Sept/Oct 2007: 31

Wilson, August. “The Ground on Which I Stand.” Keynote address, eleventh Biennial Theatre Communications Group National Conference, Princeton University, 1996.