URI Providence Campus holds events to kick off National Black Storytelling Festival, Nov. 12-16

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 874-4500

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — November 4, 2003 — The University of Rhode Island will welcome National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference participants and the general public to a storytelling event, a lecture and a documentary film presentation that celebrate the conferences theme, Embracing The Many Shades Of Black: Africa the Mother of Us All.

On Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m., gifted West African storyteller Teju Ologboni will set the stage for the festival with stories from 7 to 8 p.m. His performance will be followed by anthropologist Joseph Opala, who will speak and present his documentary film, The Language You Cry In. These events are complemented by an exhibit of the extensive collection of narrative paintings, sculptures, photography, plays, and poetry of the late artist and storyteller, Yabo. These presentations will take place at the Providence Campus Paff Auditorium and are free and open to the public.
Opalas documentary film is based upon his research on an ancient African song preserved by a Gullah family in coastal Georgia. Opala and his colleagues found a village in Sierra Leone where the same song is still sung today, and in 1997 brought the Georgia family to Africa for an unforgettable reunion that is chronicled in the film.

Opala is widely known for his research on this “Gullah Connection.” His work uncovered the historical thread linking Africans in Sierra Leone and other countries with the Gullah people of South Carolina and Georgia, and the Black Seminoles in Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico, and the Bahamas. These links were chronicled in “Family Across the Sea,” an award-winning PBS documentary broadcast nationally in 1991.

Opala lectured at Sierra Leone’s Fourah Bay College, and was co-founder of the Campaign for Good Governance, Sierra Leone’s most successful pro-democracy civil society group.

His research has received coverage in such media outlets as: The New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, CBS (60 Minutes), CNN, and National Public Radio.

Also related to the Conference: URI Feinstein Providence Campus students and youth ensembles will showcase their storytelling talents at the conference. The URI students will present Talking Book, a group performance of African-American Literature on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. at the conference site. Then on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 11 a.m., the youth performance ensemble, Seeds Of Hope, will present “Learning To Fly,” an original play based on an African-American folktale. The Seeds Of Hope is a unique ensemble program that was initiated and sponsored by the URI Feinstein Providence Campus and is managed and directed by the Providence Black Repertory Company. The group tours to present programs at schools throughout the state.

These events are being presented by URI Providence Campus to kick off the National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference, with additional support from Brown University Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre.
For More Information: JoAnne Dibello, 277-5174