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.
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)