This Monday, the Kenton Library will host a special workshop on African American storytelling techniques. The class will be led by Chetter Galloway, a storytelling performance artist who has studied both African and African American story traditions.
Galloway said attendees will be introduced to these styles and techniques and will leave with a broader understanding of the art form.
“(They will) know more about the art of African American storytelling, more about the story tellers who work to preserve the cultural traditions and heritage of African and African American storytelling,” Galloway said.
One of the classic traditions of African storytelling is the use of “call and response” -- where there is a back-and-forth syncopation between the leader and the chorus. Call and response techniques tend to dissolve the separation between the performer and audience, making the art interactive.
Galloway said this interaction is key, as well as the use of music as a part of the tradition. Whether the stories talk about joy or sadness, the heart of African storytelling is creative articulation.
“African American storytelling is very lively, animated and rooted in expression. Where this expression is social justice issues or civil rights or some strife, it’s very expressive and comes out through the art,” he said.
Galloway said the class will have interactive activities that will apply the lessons of the workshop. Attendees will have a better understanding of the art and the ability to use the techniques in their own storytelling practices.
He also wants to connect people with national storytelling organizations. Part of the workshop will cover the National Association of Black Storytellers who work to preserve African cultural heritage.
The African American storytelling workshop is part of a larger movement by the Multnomah County Library to reach out to their community members.
Library employee David Miles said the library had hired several reference positions for libraries to develop programming that would be interesting to the African American community.
“That is one of the focuses of our particular location … to have a more engaging relationship with the African American community that uses us,” Miles said.
Galloway, who is part of the Portland Storytellers Guild, said there are many places for good storytelling in this area, but there aren’t many places that focus on African and African American traditions.
“There is an opportunity here to enlighten others about an art and craft that isn't necessarily represented all the time in the community,” Galloway said.
The African-American Storytelling workshop takes place in the Kenton Meeting Room in the Kenton Library, Monday, November 16 at 6 p.m. Class space is limited, interested storytellers should arrive early.