"I indeed am a griot"

Ideas, Comments & Discussions

I would like to share an entry from my journal dated Wednesday, February 25, 2015 with you:

During Black History Month I was humbled to meet several Heinz Fellows, recent minority college graduates, who have returned to their communities to inspire our youth.  Among one of these Heinz Fellows I would like to take note--Mr. Raynard Dickerson.  

I met Mr. Dickerson five years ago when he was a college student at the University of Pittsburgh. He had invited me to be the keynote speaker for Black History Month.  This year, Mr. Dickerson contacted me the first week of February and said that he faced a dilemma.  He had a sincere desire for the students at Westinghouse High School to have a first-class Black History Month Program and sought my help.  Raynard told me the funds were limited.  .I told the young man that I would do what I could in my power to help him. 

Consequently, I was blessed to speak to hundreds of youth at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh.  I was honored to speak to two assembles  (high school students, followed by middle school students). 

 I began my presentation with the high school group  by pointing to the gray whiskers on my chin.  I shared with the young people that individuals with gray are respected and meant something in Africa.

"Why is that?"" one African American male student respectfully raised his hand and asked. 

 I thought, "A question at the beginning of my programming?"

"Because the elders are like libraries--human libraries--with knowledge and wisdom.”

Silence followed my response.  The young people were pondering what they heard.

Then another young African American male raised his hand and responded.  "So the people with gray hair are the griots." 

I paused and reflected, "I never thought of myself as a griot," before giving a resounding "Yes, we are the griots." My heart filled with hope.. 

The young people asked me so many questions.  The first assembly turned into more of a rap session.

The middle school students listened to me read from my book, "Under African Skies" and shared valuable life lessons. At the end I took a picture with some of the young people.

"I indeed am a griot."  Thanks for this fresh new perspective on my life  journey. Well, this griot looks forward to returning to visit with my new found friends at Westinghouse High School and Middle School again

Roland Barksdale-Hall, President of JAH Kente International, Inc.
Author of Under African Skies and Lion Pride