The Power of Storytelling

caines | 2/28/2013, 4:30 a.m.

Kids learn their history from their elders It is only the story that can continue beyond the war and the warrior . . . The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No, neither do we the story; rather it is the story that owns and directs us." This excerpt of Chinua Achebe's Anthills of Savannah expresses the great importance of history in some cultures, such as West African culture. In West Africa, griots, who are the storytellers and historians of the communities, play a very significant role by saving the history of the people. Last week, The Miami Times staff and the teachers of R. J. W. Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Christian academy, played the role of griots as they shared the history of Blacks in Miami and the history of The Miami Times with their students during a tour of our publication. The students smiled with pride when they found out that The Miami Times was a Black-owned and Black-operated business. Walter Dennis, an instructor at the academy, said that The Miami Times being Black-owned was one of the reasons the school chose to visit its office for their field trip. This establishment represents the struggle of Black people and the promise of what can happen through hardwork, dedication and education, so we decided that we wanted to come here so that they can learn the history of The Miami Times, he said. When I read The Miami Times, it motivates me to write better, Jahmir Cunningham, 15, a 9th grade student. Taniya Cunningham, 14, an eigth grade student, said she feels more comfortable reading The Miami Times, than she does other publications. Rashonda Williams, 16, a student at the academy said she enjoyed learning that the paper came from humble roots and now has transformed into a major media company serving South Florida. The tour was amazing and motivating to see how our people have progressed, she said. We met reporters and we were able to see how information is transferred from their minds to the format of a newspaper. Remembering The Miami Times roots Dennis discussed the history of The Miami Times as he remembered it as a Miami resident. He said he remembered the paper starting on 15th Avenue and its circulation being smaller than it is today. Now you can go to any part of South Florida and you will find copies of The Miami Times available and thats just a testament to the growth and expansion that has taken place, Dennis said. Its just refreshing to have organizations that are still housed within the Black community.A lot of times when businesses become as successful as The Miami Times they move somewhere else. Dennis said the academy instructors want their students to realize that a major part of learning takes outside of the classroom. This is a strong belief at the academy that is why students go on at least one field trip per month. Last week, students went on two. In addition, to visiting The Miami Times they also visited the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center. The R. J. W. Academy of Arts, that is now housed in St. John MBC in Overtown, once took a walking tour around the Overtown community, where students learned of its rich history. A lot of our kids think our history is limited to Martin Luther King and slavery, when it is so much richer and more vast than that, Dennis said. Turning kids on to our history can motivate them or set a fire in them to let them know that whatever they want to do in life they can go out and do it, regardless of what people say and regardless of the circumstances that they face. By Malika A. Wrightmwright@Miamitimesonline.com