Once upon a time, which seems like not too long ago, I had the pleasure and honor of joining Keepers of The Culture, Philadelphia’s only African American Storytelling Group. It’s not everyday you join an organization that inspires you to further your education in the Oral Tradition and motivates your grandchild to apply storytelling in every aspect of her learning.
There were times my granddaughter Astarte’ and I would travel by: car, subway or bus to attend one storytelling event or another. We would go to libraries, community centers, schools, etc. just like two children spellbound while listening to stories.
I remember attending a program at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s main branch. There on the stage stood a woman dressed in regal afro-centric clothing. Her voice was as smooth as silk. I sat mesmerized by veteran storyteller Charlotte Blake-Alston (a founding member of KOTC). I approached Charlotte after the performance and told her that I wanted to tell stories just like her. Her reply was humble and wise. She encouraged me to find my own voice and that I did.
Not only did I find my own voice but also I pursued a master’s degree in the Oral Tradition.
In 2005 I had the pleasure of sharing my family story quilt with a group of seniors at Temple University PASCEP program. This was the start of a bonding relationship (our love for quilts) between Miss Beam and I. Miss Beam enjoyed the presentation so much she went back to her apartment and collected over 100 neckties from distinguished gentlemen in her high rise building. She handed me the duffle bags filled with ties and told me to do something with them.
Long story short… I found a sansan draped across the chair during my journey to Ghana, West Africa. The idea to sew the tips of the ties around the sansan came to mind. I sought the advice of my elders on how to put a project together. The late Mrs. Annie Hyman, the founder of PASCEP encouraged me via telephone all the way from Alabama to form a sister circle, writing and sewing camp in the comfort of my home.
I decided to form a non-profit in order to solicit funds for a play that I wrote and directed titled “The Ties That Bind Us.” In December 2008, Sankofa Youth and Creative Arts, a division of Regenerating Our Offspring Through Stories, was formed.
Astarte graduated from Hampton University class of 2020 and still applies the art of storytelling to her everyday life.