National Association of Black Storytellers in Philly: Let's Support Them

Philadelphia has been the home of a number of conventions this year.  The most famous has been the Democratic National Convention.  The Democrat's nominated the first woman ever to lead the party into the general election in November.  The African Methodist Episcopal General Conference was held in Philadelphia in July also.  This was the 50th Session held since the Church was incorporated in 1816 when Richard Allen was elected and consecrated as Bishop.  The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts was held here in April.  It featured over 60 performances and a wide variety of mediums on which art was expressed.

We are a destination city in many ways.  It came as no surprise then when I found out that the National Association of Black Storytellers was going to convene here in November.  One of my childhood friends is the local Director at the festival.  I received an e-mail from one branch of this group called Keepers of the Culture.  Even though we are a multi-cultural society, knowing the roots of one's own culture is very important.  Besides the fact that my friend and I grew up in South Philadelphia, we also share Howard University as a connection in our journey.   If any HU students missed visiting the Moorland Springarn room, then you missed a big part of the contributions that African Americans have made to our society.

Tahira Akua Tahira is a Storyteller that actually supports herself with her craft.  She is walking history personified.  We got a chance to catch up over coffee in preparation for the conference which begins in November.  The website for the conference is  It will take place from November 2 - 6, 2016.  I will volunteer and also attend some of the sessions.  The opening night of the conference is free and the group is encouraging as many youth as possible to attend.  The website for Tahira is  The website is impressive but is was more impressive sitting down with my friend who is keeping an art form alive through her work.

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Storytelling has a long history in the evolution of mankind.  Before the internet, podcasts, webchats and photography, there was storytelling.  The history of a clan or tribe was retold time and again to youth and other family members in various settings.  Myths, legends of all kinds, fables, fairy tales and odysseys all began with the recounting of epic adventures or society forming battles or migrations.  A google search reveals that the oldest surviving tale in storytelling history is the epic Gilgamesh, relating to the deeds of a famous Sumerian king.  I know the Sumerians also etched their stories in cunieform tablets.  But the oral tradition and its impact had to be so exciting for the people listening at the time.  Many of us remember Aesop's fables that were featured on some cartoons while growing up.  Aesop was a slave who was believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 B.C.E.  How powerful were his stories to still exist 2,000 years later?

I will be contacting some of my fellow Howard grads in hopes of garnering some support for this upcoming conference.  There is a program called Adopt-a-Teller where a professional can weave a tale for $100.00.  We need to get behind this effort to extend a tradition that goes back a couple of centuries.  We know the bad news that sometimes permeates our airwaves.  Shootings and a lack of hope sometimes holds our best citizens back due to the negative impact of these situations,  A presidential candidate stated that we live in 'our poverty' and wallow in misery.  That is the farthest thing from the truth in many of our communities.  We are vibrant, strong and have history that has molded our society in many ways.  The National Association of Black Storytellers will add to the canvas that is constantly being painted and updated in American history!!

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