Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Power of an Ashley Bryan Experience

The Power of an Ashley Bryan Experience
Originally Posted in the Common Threads Blog on July 4th, 2007

This past Friday, I was at Schlow library, thanks to a poetry phase my daughter is enjoying.

We went there to listen to award winning poet, illustrator and teacher Ashley Bryan, who transformed the place with the power of his presence and his performance

My parents, daughter and I sat enthralled as Ashley Bryan got the entire audience to repeat Langston Hughes’ poem “My people.” The room resonated with our pride in the beauty of our individual identities.

After that, he introduced many poems – by himself and others like Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni.

Some were based on folktales from other lands, and some described moments in ordinary lives. As we repeated the poems, in different beats and rhythms, he guided us to find the poet’s voice, accent and experience. And in doing so, we found our own voices, in the commonality and pride of all our experiences.

I am so thankful for the magic of that hour with Ashley Bryan.

I later researched his work – and discovered a man who had been nourished by the act of storytelling in his family and community. A man who loves books and art. A man whose work fosters pride in the self, supports learning our individual, family and community histories, and creates respect for other people’s histories.

This encounter with Ashley Bryan has reminded me to cherish the ongoing storytelling in my family – to treasure the memories and stories of our family and pass them on. To take pride in our history and culture, while respecting other ways of living.

And summer is usually family time for us, when we visit extended family or they visit us.

We share stories of the past year and create the tapestry of individual and collective memories that makes us who we are; we share our interests and expand our horizons.

A sad moment gets put into perspective, and funny events get shared again and again for more laughs. The stories themselves achieve mythical proportions, defining who we are and where we came from, giving us lessons, experiences and benchmarks for the future.

And as we share stories of the past, our present time together creates new memories for the summers to come

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