Before there was the written word, there were oral storytellers, and StoryCorps Atlanta had the pleasure of recording conversations at the National Black Storytelling Conference and Festival held in Atlanta, Georgia.
This recording day was phenomenal. It was an honor to hear amazing stories by professional storytellers and to hear these professionals share the ordinary stories of their lives, the raw human material that StoryCorps knows all too well that has inspired them to make storytelling a way of life. Below are a few highlights.
Barbara Eady and Jacqueline Boyd, both from Ohio, discussed how they began storytelling. Barbara shared a poignant story about an elder mother in her church, who knew her as a child and remembered her many years later when Barbara brought her own children to Sunday service. The elder’s detailed memories of Barbara as a child touched her and has encouraged her work. Today, Barbara is a living vessel of memory and history.
When Imhotep Akbar and David Anderson recorded their story, they traced their commitment to storytelling back to Africa and the African-American traditions of the rural South. Imhotep, an experienced puppeteer, remembered growing up in the rural South and his fascination with the food, language, and folkways of relatives and other African Americans in his community. When he learned that many of those traditions were rooted in African culture, Imhotep was inspired to change his name to identify more closely with Africa’s rich history.
Earlier this year, local NPR affiliate and StoryCorps Atlanta home base WABE (90.1) produced an edited segment featuring Linda Gorham and her friend and fellow storyteller, Gwendolyn Hilary. Linda described her transition from a successful, high-level corporate career and MBA studies to become a professional storyteller. Today, she has nearly 20 years of work under her belt. Listen to Linda’s story here.
StoryCorps Atlanta would like to thank Deborah Strahorn, President of the Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia, for inviting us to record stories. Since 1995, the organization has worked hard to “promote and perpetuate the educational, historical, and social value of the African-American oral tradition.” Deborah recorded her own StoryCorps conversation during the conference, and when describing her interview experience, she reminded us of the grassroots power of storytelling. “I got to know my interview partner in a way that I did not before and learned what he is passionate about,” she told us.
Kuumba means creativity in Swahili, and kuumba is never in short supply, as this conference and the Kuumba Storytellers bring together griots (storytellers), puppeteers, drummers, storyweavers, dream keepers, teachers, librarians, actors, and a host of other individuals for whom creativity is the blood of life.