In the year of 2017-2018 We received a grant from the Pennsylvania Council On The Arts that enabled us to preserve the power of storytelling, encouraging young people to straighten up & fly right one fable and folktale at a time.
For us, as storytellers and women, the lifeblood of Black storytelling⎯its fables and folktales and images⎯lies not only in its ability to draw on questions and truths for the heart to explore. The interior tones of its rhythms and word meanings have the power to shape the ways that listeners, and in our case, that of young people, might experience their own worlds and shape the world into which they will grow. As a young frog ultimately found his voice among the reeds and doubters, so too did our students reach for new expressions of determination and joy. Their reach succeeded.
⎯Mama Linda Goss and Joann Frasier Dasent
FOLK AND TRADITIONAL ARTS- Folk and Traditional Arts are defined as those artistic traditions that are characteristic of specific ethnic, religious, linguistic, occupational or regional groups. These arts are shaped and shared within families, neighborhoods and communities. They are passed down from one generation to another, learned through ongoing participation in community-based activities as well as through observation, practice or apprenticeships with elders and masters rather than through classes, books or other means of institutional instruction. The PCA has established three ways to provide resources and services to the Folk and Traditional Arts field in Pennsylvania.
APPRENTICESHIPS- Program Coordinator: Sally Van de Water Apprenticeships in Folk and Traditional Arts are grants from the PCA, which support the learning of traditional arts within cultural communities across the state. FolkArtPA at Jump Street in Harrisburg, PA administers these grants. Each grant award provides funding to a partnership between a master traditional artist and a qualified apprentice, enabling them to work together to share and develop advanced techniques or repertoire. Apprenticeships in Traditional Arts grants are offered annually in both performing or craft traditions. Artists who receive the award are also profiled on the statewide.
TITLE BACKGROUND- Straighten Up and Fly Right is more than simply good advice. It is also part of America's national musical history. Nat King Cole wrote the tune and lyrics by that name in the winter of 1943. The song was based on a playful story that Cole’s pastor father would sometimes tell from the pulpit. It is an Aesop’s tale of a monkey who climbs on top of a buzzard for a free flight. In the end, neither species quite gets what they bargained for. The final lessons imparted in the song and the story is two fold. Never expect a free ride and never underestimate the person you are trying to take advantage of. Straighten Up and Fly Right became Cole’s breakthrough hit at the time. While it might tell the humorous story of a bird and a monkey, it was the song’s infectious rhythm, lyrics and instrumental background made it a cross-generational favorite, just as its meaning as a fable enhanced the power of story to influence how children learn to interact with others and respect themselves. This is the preservation of storytelling to shape lives.
DEFINITION OF A FABLE -A fable tale that teaches a moral lesson with animals or inanimate objects as characters.
Rain can wash the leopard’s back, but it cannot wash out its spots.
When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion.
Wisdom enclosed in the heart is like a light in a jug.
Eggs have no business dancing with rocks.
Remember the rain that made your corn grow.
Don’t look where you fell, but where you slipped
To know is good, to learn is better, but to share what you know and have learned is best of all.
The trees that are growing are tomorrow’s forest
Little by little grows the banana
Proverbs are the daughters of experience.
• You can’t chase a rabbit through the woods; you gotta catch him at his home.
• You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry.
• If you make your bed then you have to lay in it.
• Every shuteye ain’t sleep and every goodbye ain’t gone.
• Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
• The tree of love gives shade to all.
• Fair to midlin.
• If you can’t say anything good about someone, then don’t say anything at all.
• The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
• When the neck is gone the head is struggling.
• Be the change you want to see.
• The pot calling the kettle black.
• What you don’t know won’t hurt you.
The different definitions and descriptions of fables and fairy tales are as varied as the cultures and countries from which they originated.
You may want to investigate the meaning of the following terms.
• Fable • Fairy tale
• Folklore • Folktale
• How & Why tales (Pourquoi) • Legend
• Myth • Narrative
• Oral History • Proverbs
• Tall Tales • Tradition
1. What types of stories do you enjoy?
2. What is the title of your favorite fable?
3. If you could be an animal in a fable, which one would you be?
1. Johnson Hodari Askhari and Yvonne McCalla.Sobers. LIfelines: the Black Book of Proverbs. Broadway Books. New York, NY. 2009.
2. Leslau Charlotte and Wolf. African Proverbs (compilation). Peter Pauper Press, Inc. White Plains, NY. 1962, 1985.
3. Wolkstein, Diane. The Cool Ride In The Sky. Random House, Canada. 1973.
4. Murphy, Deeci. Spoken Word For The Young Soul. Xlibris, Indiana. 2015.
5. Goss, Linda. The Frog Who Wanted To Be A Singer. Orchard Books, NYC. 1996.
6. Wolkstein, Diane, Editor. The Magic Orange Tree And Other Haitian Folktales. Random House, NY. 1997.
7. Radin, Paul. African Folktales. Schocken Books, NY. 1983.
8. Lester, Julius. Ackamarackus: Julius Lester’s Sumptuously Silly Fantastically Funny Fables. Scholastic Press. 2001.
9. Pinkney, Jerry. Aesop's Fables. Chronicle Books LLC. San Francisco. 2000.
Mama Linda Goss is currently Storyteller Ambassador for The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum. She created a 60 page curriculum guide entitled “I Dream A World,” using storytelling in developing stories, activities, games and songs for children from ages four through fourteen. In 1982, she created a festival in partnership with the Griot of Maryland, Mother Mary Carter Smith called “In The Tradition National Black Festival and Conference.” Designed to wake up the Baltimore community and the world about the value of the Black storytelling tradition. The first festival was held in Baltimore, MD in 1983 at Morgan State University. In 1984, she and Mother Mary founded the Association of Black Storytellers (now referred to as the National Association of Black Storytellers – NABS). For the last thirty-five years, NABS has sponsored a national festival throughout the country, thus fostering the living traditions of Black Storytellers. Every ten years the festival comes back HOME to Baltimore. NABS now has fifteen affiliates of which one is in Baltimore, The Griot Circle of Maryland. Mama Linda is one of its honorary life members. The Griot Circle has also developed the Growing Griots, which trains and teaches young people about the values of Black storytelling. NABS also has created an Adopt-A-Teller Program (AATP) which is designed to send storytellers throughout the community throughout the country.
Joann Dasent is the founder of Regenerating Our Offspring Through Stories, Inc. a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. Its mission is to use the art of storytelling to promote literacy as a means of reaching various types of learners in a multicultural society. She has been a member of NABS for more than twenty years. In 2018, Auntie JoJo established a six weeks program at Arcadia University titled Preserving The Oral Tradition One Story at A Time. In partnership with the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) Summer Youth Work Study Program, Auntie JoJo’s focus was to structure effective ways of passing on fables, sayings and stories to the next generation with the hope they will do the same for the generation after them. Auntie JoJo has received numerous grants for her storytelling work within the Philadelphia area, among them a foundation allocation to partner with Master Storyteller Mama Linda Goss in a collaborative project, “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” The project focused on the importance of fables, folktales and storytelling as fostering guidelines intrinsically woven into African-American culture, encouraging young people to “straighten up and fly right.” Auntie Jo Jo's retold fable, "A Farmer, His Son and Their Mule,” exemplifies this deeply held heritage through 20th century language and imagery. Her newest retold folktale, “One Cool Windy Day on Table Mountain,” was inspired by her reading of Diane Wolkstein’s The Cool Ride In The Sky.