I grew up in southeast Louisiana, the first-born of 11 siblings. I am grounded in the African-American traditions of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I was born into this world by a medicine woman and spent many moons learning how to plant, nourish and harvest food. By the time I was 15, I could farm with the best.

By tradition, the first-born male inherited the rich cultural trappings of the elders, so they gifted me with songs, music, stories, myths and memories. The gifts were given with the understanding I would share and one day pass them on to a younger generation. And that’s what I have been doing for decades.

We owned the land I grew up on. We got the land through the Homestead Act under President McKinley. Our land became a cultural hub for black performers who needed safety and respite as their travel led through our neck of the woods.

My work is about preserving traditional African-American culture in music, storytelling, traditions, rituals and language.

I worked for 10 years traveling the state of Oregon as a griot of African-American culture for Portland Public Schools’ multicultural program, under the direction of Carolyn Leonard, who still holds that position today.

I spent several years with the artist-in-education program, and several years with the American Heritage Foundation through Marylhurst University. My job was exposing Japanese students who visited the University to African-American culture.

In the early 1990’s, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation brought me to Battle Creek, Michigan as a expert-in-residence.

I created the Sojourner Truth Theater, which received proclamations from two Portland mayors—Mayor Bud Clark and Mayor Frank Ivancie for contributing to the cultural enrichment of the City of Portland.

I appeared in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom“, a Storefront Theater Production, and when the Delores Winningstad Theater opened on Broadway, Commissioner Mike Lindberg chose the production as the first play to grace the building.

I have a traveling schedule that takes me to prisons, social service agencies, schools—you name it.

Nationally, I am a member of a cultural performing group from coastal South Carolina called “The Geechee Gullah Connection,” which promotes the Gullah culture of the Sea Islands.

Recently, I was chosen as the resident Storyteller  at Reflections Talking Drum Bookstore in Portland, Oregon.

The residency is for 3 years with options for more. Thanks to Ms.  Gloria McMurthy, Owner, and longtime supporter of traditional, African  American Arts and Culture.

Ase. Ase. Ase.
(So be it)


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  2. Hello, Brother Askari: So great to meet you at Meek last week. Hope you’re filling up your journals with all your stories, and I look forward to hearing some when I see you again. Come see me when you get a chance, and I’ll keep an eye out for you in the hallway. All the best to you, Laura

  3. Hi Ayanna, hello Askari. I have lost contact with you and am able to find you here on the web. Thank goodness for that! This is Kai, you and my grandmother before she past were very good friends. Jackie, I am sure you remember. I would like to chat with you soon if that is possible.

    1. Hello Kai! So glad to hear from you. You are family and there’s no way we can forget you. Yes lets chat, and whenever you need to find some sunshine – go to this site. I will send you a telephone number to call real soon. We love you as always! (Ayanna & Bro. Asskaari)

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