Storytellers weave tales that captivate a family-friendly audience at NBTF

Courtney Fisher and her daughter, Augusta, were among the many attendees at the NBTF Storytelling Festival.

Storytellers weave tales that captivate a family-friendly audience at NBTF
August 10
15:16 2022

By David Winship

Telling tall tales, true lies and gollywhoppers, the North Carolina Association of Black Storytellers entertained an audience of young and old at the Storytelling Festival, part of the National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF), on Friday morning, Aug. 5, at the Benton Center. Arrayed on stage were 12 storytellers attired in both traditional African and American dress, to deliver a variety of stories. Conveying wit and wisdom, these stories included traditional animal tales, true and fictional human stories, and retelling of familiar stories.

Among the many parents with their children were Courtney Fisher and her daughter, Augusta, who were on the front row enjoying the various tales.

Dual tellers Kevin and Tracy Bell, performing as The Two Bells, engaged the audience with an encounter of Mister Man and Little Boy competing as to who was the champion liar. Sparkle Mosley told an instructional tale showing how stumbling blocks can be seen as stepping stones. Currie Williams as The Apple Lady, told about Pig, who loved candies, hiding out in a hollow tree gobbling chocolate until he ate so much he couldn’t get out. 

Additional stories included showing the wisdom that tribal elders can give in the story where an elder granny ant saved her colony from a flood with a song. Also, a tale of an aggravating kid had the audience jumping in surprise, the story aptly named a “jump tale.”

Patti Lambe, wearing uniform and cap, began her story with the phrase “Take me out to the ballgame,” and the audience responded with an impromptu singing of the familiar baseball song. She related a story as Baseball Mom, recalling the years of youngsters learning the game. She told the story of kids playing in the field as a giant sandbox with butterflies and dandelions, where the mechanics of the game were less important than the social and play time. She reminded the audience of the importance of recalling the names and deeds of forgotten Negro League players, including Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell. 

The Storytelling Festival closed with a beautiful tribute to Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin with the audience repeating her name in a traditional call and response, ending with a quote from Sprinkle-Hamlin: “Make the work I’ve done speak for me, when I’m resting in my grave, when nothing else can be said.” 

The audience of children, parents and grandparents eagerly responded to the gathered tellers and tales, embracing the encouragement that stories are meant to be shared and retold.

David Winship is an Appalachian storyteller, writer and retired educator from Bristol, Tennessee. He is a member of Winston-Salem Writers.

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