Thursday, December 29, 2016

Life Legacy: The Story You Leave Behind

Your life legacy is a book you never get to read.
In my TEDx Talk I describe legacy through the eyes of a respected mentor. My mentor's professional accomplishments were not the source of her legacy. Instead it was her struggle for equality and significance. My TEDx Talk concludes with one of my original songs about the experience. What is your barometer for measuring a legacy?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ghana Bound

Stories have paid the mortgage for nearly two decades.  Sharing stories and songs rooted in the African oral tradition has been my j-o-b since 1996. Now, I have an opportunity to perform in West Africa. 
The National Association of Black Storytellers Inc. (NABS) has invited me to perform at Panafest.  Additionally, I get to participate in the Inter-Continental Scholarly Exchange on the Preservation of the African Oral Tradition through Black Storytelling. Both the festival and scholarly exchange will take place in Ghana, West Africa December 1-19, 2015.
The stories and songs I perform are derived from both my personal experience as a woman of African descent, from the traditions handed down from my parents, as well as from my scholarly research. This project affords me an opportunity to go to the source of my cultural roots for the very first time and not only collect stories, but to participate in an academic discussion about African storytelling with a diverse assembly of people. 
You can become a part of this journey with me. Your contribution to my crowd funding campaign will make this trip possible. 
What do you get for your money? 
You will receive a reward for your contribution. You can have me perform in your home for a fraction of my usual fee. When I return from Ghana, I will be hosting a Sankofa Celebration where I will perform LIVE and you may be able to attend FREE. At the Sankofa Celebration the stories and songs I perform will include those collected in Ghana and/or inspired by my experience there. You may even attend the VIP reception at the celebration. No contribution is too small. 
Become a part of the story!

Get more details on my crowd funding campaign by clicking the picture below.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Evergreen Art

Evergreen. A media term that describes material that can be used on numerous occasions over a long period. Evergreen program content can air at multiple times on a variety of platforms because it is not time sensitive.

I learned the term while attending a workshop at Scribe, in preparation for a five-week radio program Keepers Of The Culture will be producing and hosting. (Stay tuned for more details.)  As soon as I heard the term, it resonated with me. It actually made me smile.

Later, reflecting more on the word, I realized what appealed to me about the word.  It occurred to me that evergreen is a characteristic of great art. An effective story is evergreen when it contains universal truths with wide ranging applications. A great song is enjoyed by generations often when the message is timeless.

As an artist, it is more appealing to me to create art that is evergreen rather than art that is popular. Evergreen art inevitably is content that touches hearts. Artists like the Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, the R & B band, is a shinning example of artists who never achieved wide popularity, never won a Grammy; but still perform before sold out audiences after four decades together.  Their success and longevity are credited to the theme of unity and reverence for something greater than yourself.

The lesson: an artist can achieve longevity with quality content that connects people.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Be A Hero

What if you were the hero in your own story? 

This is a question I encourage my workshop participants to ponder as they craft personal stories about trauma and recovery. 

In storytelling, a hero's journey story is an archetypal tale that follows a certain pattern. Using this pattern, participants can craft a story about recovery from addiction, survival from trauma or other challenge. The story structure often looks like this:

HERO is forced from home ---> Sets out on journey ----> Encounters obstacles  ---> Has a transformation ---> Returns home

You might recognize this pattern in Hollywood movies. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Lion King are perfect examples.  The hero/heroine leaves home under duress and finds both friend and foe on the quest. The journey leads to a fundamental shift in perspective and the acquisition of some great wisdom. The return home may be physical or a metaphoric return in which the heroine incorporates the new wisdom into her life. 

When working with social service providers, I encourage them to use this pattern to help their clients shape (or perhaps re-shape) trauma stories. This exercise also helps transform a victim story into a victory story. The aim is to get them to examine how they already possess characteristics within them; and have resources available to them to save themselves.

What does a hero do? A hero saves, protects and defends. What if you are the one you have been waiting for? How would you respond to the next obstacle or challenge you face? How might you show up as the hero is your own life? 

Please share your answers in the comment section below. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Storytelling is often perceived as frivolous entertainment for children. Busting this myth is a joy of mine. The best way I know how to dispel this notion, is to take storytelling into arenas where it is not often found.

Case in point: In a few weeks I will be performing at the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence  "Resilience on the Riverfront Transforming Trauma" Conference.  After my performance I will facilitate a workshop on how to use storytelling as a tool to transform trauma.

The conference attendees are trauma informed social service providers. My aim is to give them steps to incorporate storytelling in their practice. Ultimately, my desire is to have these providers discover how aiding their clients in crafting stories can help their clients to reveal deeper truths about themselves and uncover previously unknown strengths, such as resiliency and courage.

My heart really gets pumping when I introduce a new audience to the transformative power of storytelling. When my heart is highly engaged in this manner, it is proof positive that I am on mission.

A short while ago, I revised my artist mission statement after reading Making Your Life As An Artist. Here is what I wrote:
"Words are how I metabolize life. The by-product of that metabolism is stories, songs and poetry that helps me and my audience make sense out of the senseless, heal from unimaginable pain, and choose love again, and again, and one more again."
I would love to hear what your personal mission is. Comment below on what gets your heart full engaged. Have you figured out how to carry out that mission? Please share.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

#BlackStorytellersSpeak about #BlackLivesMatter Movement

The recent highly publicized homicides by police of unarmed black men Eric Garner in Staten Island and Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO have sparked protests around the globe. The issue of systemic racial inequalities is widely debated on news outlets and on social media. Many have proclaimed it the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.

The feeling that this country has once again reached a precipice in race relation seems undeniable. The activists of this movement are much like those of the past: every day folk who will no longer stand by and let the injustice continue. Artists are using their art form to illuminate the issues and possible solutions. The National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS) has launched a video project, #BlackStorytellersSpeak, to capture the current and past stories to advanced the #BlackLivesMatter movement. On NABS' website they state,
"The National Association of Black Storytellers will be joining other artists and concerned activists by lending our voices in solidarity to movements fighting against racial injustice, inequalities in the judiciary system..."
Carolise Frink Reed, chairperson of the NABS Education Committee, is spearheading #BlackStorytellersSpeak says this project allows their members to join other artists "who have transmitted their artistic energy to this just cause."

To that end, I offered the following story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Black Poets Speak about #BlackLivesMatter

The nation has taken to the streets to protests the sustained and continuous murdering of Black people by law enforcement. The spark THIS TIME was the killing of unarmed teenager, Mike Brown, in Ferguson, MO. Just like in countless times in the past, those leading the protests are young people. To use the words of one of the most influential women of the Civil Rights Movement, Ella Baker,
"I believe young people come first. They have the courage where we fail."
For months my internal struggle has intensified, as I struggle as Black person, as mother, and artist to find what it is for me to do. As I grapple to find a way to add my voice to this critical conversation and protest, a dear friend and fellow storyteller, Emily Hooper Lansana, told me of a movement by Black Poets. Black Poets Speak has galvanized and organized poets to submit videos of poetry recitations that speak to the continued injustice in this country that seeks to dismiss black lives and perpetuate white supremacy.

Each video opens with the poet stating, "I am a Black Poet who will not remain silent while the nation murders Black people. I have a right to be angry. I have a right to be sad. I have a right to express my feelings." Below is a video from one of the poets, Natasha Ria El-Scari.  May her words serve you.

Ella Baker's words once again seems fitting.
"Not needing to clutch to power. Not needing the light to shine on me. Just needing to be one in that number to stand up against tyranny."