English teacher, journalist, writer; student of all forms of African/African American culture; BA degrees in Anthropology and English; MA in Journalism and Communications; has always used storytelling as a parent, writer, and teacher; past President.
The Blackstorytelling League of Rochester (BLR) served as the primary sources for my doctoral dissertation, entitled African American Storytelling: Collective Memory, Creative Resistance, and Personal Transformation.
I joined BLR because of the enthusiasm of the members. It offered a creative outlet that had elements of drama and poetry, and dance.
I remembered telling” made-up” stories to my children, so I had some “experience.” I call myself an African and African American “culturalist.” I have traveled and read widely and liked having an opportunity to share what I have learned.
I like the sense of camaraderie, the warm welcoming feeling of the group towards each other and I saw this transmitted to the audience.
By profession, I am a high school and college English teacher, and storytelling blends well with teaching; but I think one of the most important things is the connection.
That’s what I mean by collective memory. It’s the smiles of recognition about a memory shared. I saw it most in “Front Porch” performance a few years ago, which sprang from group members sitting and talking at a social gathering and we started saying” remember when…” I distinctly remember the nods and smiles from the audience when we did the performance. Creative Resistance—the creative part is clear. The resistance is historically true (Brer Rabbit, codes, “Steal Away,” etc.). Historical stories relate to the theme of resistance, so telling those stories is resistance. Certainly, the stories resist the imagery of the negative stereotypes about African Americans. Personal Transformation—I feel it and feel it in the audience. I look at their faces and see them almost in a trance, literally, wide-eyed, intensely listening.
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