Stories and Songs in the Oral Tradition
For hundreds of years throughout the African continent, people gathered and told stories. The tradition may be the strongest in the West African countries of Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and Mali where history was preserved and is still passed down orally through the words and music of the griots or jalis. Stories were the way the beliefs, mythology, cultural identity, history, and shared community values of a people were taught and preserved. The tradition continued when Africans were brought to America. Charlotte selects from her wide repertoire of stories and songs from the African and African American oral traditions.  (Adapted to suit Elementary, Middle, and High School audiences (45 min.)/Family (60 min.)

WhyOhWhyOhWhy? African Porquoi Tales
Tales that make you say, “Hmmm.” The essential themes and lessons of this genre of centuries old African folk stories reveal why they have stood the test of time. Often offering creative and humorous ideas for natural phenomena and man’s relationship with the earth and the universe, these timeless stories were primarily designed to offer the listener food for thought. At the center of many of these tales are characters you may know: Anansi the Spider from Ghana, or Sungura the Rabbit from Kenya. Not only may you find yourself asking, “What will Turtle do next?” you may also find yourself asking, “What would I do in that situation?” Hmmm. This tradition followed Africans to America where Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and company were born. Come listen, laugh, join in, tap your finger on your temple and say “Hmmm?”,then go back to your classroom (or back to your home) and TALK! No, not talk to your neighbor when you should be listening – talk about the ‘Why’ stories you just heard! Hmmm. Elementary (45 min.)/Family (60 min.)

Come Tell With Me! (Suitable for Pre-K to 2nd Grade or 3-7 year olds)
This program of stories and songs is geared specifically for my youngest story listeners. All stories and songs include lots of audience participation. Come ready to clap, sing and help tell the stories! Suitable for PreK-2nd Grade (3-7 yr-olds) (Length: 30-40 min.)

Ehsoti: Standing on Tradition
Long before the written word the history, traditions and cultural values of African people were passed down orally. When Africans were brought to the Americas, the storytelling tradition continued. These traditional tales and songs are the foundation upon which many of today’s African American storytellers stand. The stories continue to strengthen, sustain and bind a community with a shared American experience. But that human experience is woven into the larger story that is the common, shared history of all Americans.

Charlotte Blake Alston grew up in the segregated 1950’s in a family, neighborhood and church community that valued, maintained and celebrated their unique traditions and legacies. While her community was maligned from the outside, she was spoon-fed its cultural riches from the inside. This backdrop, enhanced by a special relationship between father and daughter, became the soil that produced the storyteller she eventually became.

Charlotte will share an evening of the traditional African and African American stories and songs that have become the hallmark of her repertoire interspersed with glimpses of those childhood influences that shaped her life. Come share this celebration of storytelling and oral tradition. Come share the power of the oral tradition.

This 75 minute program (for adult/general audiences) will be performed without an intermission. Stories will be announced from the stage. (A longer 90 minute version of this program without intermission may also be presented upon request).