Most of us know that February marks the celebration of black history month. However, many storytellers and “folks-people” in the United States, or at least in the Chicago area, are seeking to extend this special month to encompass not just Blacks but all minorities as well, and, by the looks of it, they’re doing a pretty good job!
In fact, just recently, two professional storytellers, Tony Brown and Kucha Brownlee, gathered at Chicago’s Highland Community College for a special presentation that was very well attended and that celebrated a vast array of cultures. Stories from many diverse cultures were shared, including African American, African, and Spanish stories.
The duo led eager viewers in high-energy storytelling presentations which got the whole crowd, regardless of race, pumped and ready for more. And, in spite of the racial and ethnic undertones of the tales, or maybe, perhaps because of them and the subtlety with which they were presented, people from a wide range of backgrounds showed enthusiasm for the performance, which not only entertained but also educated viewers on minority oral traditions, poetry, dialect, and call and response art.
Once familiarized with these artistic concepts, audience members were invited to participate throughout the show, which they did in full force, and the end effect was everybody having a great time.
This fantastic showing, it must be said, would not have been possible without the artistic genius of Brown and Brownlee, two Chicago natives who believe in and promote the art of storytelling and who take their stupendous show to schools and other venues across the state of Illinois. They’ve spun their tales at universities, hospitals, libraries, and more, and they regularly conduct workshops to teach others about the art of storytelling.
Brown and Brownlee, of course, have their own stories as well- stories about how they came to the world of storytelling. Brownlee started out as a theatre performer, touring with many shows, so for her, storytelling just came naturally. It allowed her to combine her love of performing with her love of educating and of history. For her, storytelling was just the perfect fit.
Brown, on the other hand, started as a musician. In fact, he still plays the African drum and the banjo, both of which are frequently utilized in his stories. He got involved in storytelling because he felt it was a way to spread love and acceptance of people from all walks of life and all kinds of ethnic backgrounds.
These two storytellers have big plans in their future as well. Brown will soon be releasing two children’s books while Brownlee will be releasing his own storytelling CD. It’s obvious that these two artists really believe in the art of storytelling and that they’re doing everything they can to keep it alive. They also believe in highlighting the beauty and diversity of all cultures, and, like many around them, they want to spread this message that all cultures have value this February.