Growing Imaginations and Sharing Stories: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the National Association of Black Storytellers

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By Jessica Hoptay Brown

Libraries are known for keeping and providing access to the printed word, whether it’s on the page or the screen. What we’re really keeping, though, is more than words. We’re keeping stories.

This year, the Pratt Library is pleased to partner with the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. (NABS) for the Imagination Celebration: a week-long festival dedicated to storytelling and story making. Each of our libraries is receiving a special performance by one of the NABS master storytellers visiting Baltimore for their annual conference and 30th anniversary.

TAHIRA at Brooklyn
TAHIRA performs for a group of
students at the Brooklyn Branch.

Formed by storytellers Mary Carter Smith of Baltimore and Linda Goss of Philadelphia in 1982, NABS provides opportunities for African-American storytellers to be heard and to share and preserve the rich heritage of the African oral tradition. The first NABS festival was held in Baltimore at Morgan State University and comes “home” to Baltimore every ten years.

Along with the national organization, there are several smaller affiliates around the country, including the Griots’ Circle of Maryland here in Baltimore. Pratt has several master storytellers from the Griots’ Circle on staff, including children’s librarian Karen Burdnell (Herring Run) and branch managers Lynne Distance (Herring Run) and S. Butler (Walbrook). Mr. Butler also runs a Growing Griots program at the Walbrook branch, which helps engage young adults in the African oral tradition and teaches them the skills related to storytelling.

The week of storytelling culminates in our Imagination Celebration for all ages at the Central Library on Saturday, November 17. During the day, stop by to visit and do an activity with our partners from the Walters Art Museum, Port Discovery, the Maryland Zoo, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, and friendly dogs and volunteers from Pets on Wheels. In addition, check out our other fun activities happening that day:

  • Make your own puppet with our friends from the Black Cherry Puppet Theater
  • Get your face painted by Theresa from Pets on Wheels
  • Watch our Free Family Flick Madagascar 3 in Wheeler Auditorium at 10:30 am
  • Hear master storyteller and published author Dylan Pritchett at 12:00 pm in the Night Room
  • Read a story to a friendly dog at our PAWS to Read program at 2:00 pm in the Children’s Garden

Join us for a whole day of sharing stories and making new ones on Saturday at the Central Library!


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