Inheriting the Role of Griot
Some family stories are told over and over and depending on who is doing the telling determines what and how it happened. When attempting to decipher what is indeed truth and what is fiction, one needs to peel back the layers of the telling, one by one, examine and decide what to keep and what to discard.
Mindful of the fact that children were not be in “grown folks’ business”, I was always lurking around corners or outside doors, eager for a morsel of something juicy that would enhance my diary entrees for the night. I could easily take a word or phrase heard and weave into something dramatic that would make for a good tale. I was therefore at full attention when sitting on the front porch of the “old house” where everyone was welcome when visiting southern, rural Arkansas during the summers of my youth. One running thread was centered around the fear of a ghostly presence in the house. The impetus for ghost yarns were the various deaths in the house including my maternal grandfather that was the basis for yarns that grew bigger and scarier with each telling.
Culture and the art of oral history are the true meaning of my storytelling. How events of the past; the social and political history of my people’s existence are often woven into the fabric of the story much like the symbols and images of the quilts my grandmother and the women before her wove unknowingly telling a story of courage and persistence.
“…one needs to peel back the layers of the telling, one by one, examine and decide what to keep and what to discard.”
My stories are for those who will come later, the descendants of slaves who will learn of their ancestors’ trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows, laughter and tears. They are memories not to be forgotten but to be remembered; albeit painfully so there is no doubt they were present, their history living on. Exploring the relationship of myth and family history in my writing, I honor the voices of her ancestors’ stories.