Third Annual Wilmington Black Storytelling Residency

Third Annual Wilmington Black Storytelling Residency Culminates in Free Public Performance

The 2024 Wilmington Black Storytelling Residency (WBSR) will conclude with a free public performance on Saturday, July 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the U.A.E. Amphitheater, located at 1509 Clifford Brown Walk in Wilmington’s Historic East Side District. Mayor Mike Purzycki and Cultural Affairs Director Tina Betz invite the public to attend this event, which celebrates the 3rd Annual WBSR. The 2024 theme, “Rooted in Resilience: Celebrating Black Narratives,” highlights stories of triumph, perseverance, and empowerment within Black communities. Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket or folding chair.

The family-friendly performance will feature original stories crafted during the residency, emphasizing the tradition of Black storytelling. This year’s residency, running from Sunday, July 7, to Sunday, July 14, underscores the belief that Black storytelling embodies Black joy and serves as a powerful tool to enhance the lived experiences of Africans in the Diaspora.

TAHIRA, Founder and Program Director of WBSR, expressed excitement about welcoming over a dozen Black storytellers from across the country, including participants from as far as California, to Wilmington for this immersive seven-day learning experience. She emphasized the importance of sharing Wilmington’s history and vibrant present through creative storytelling.

Eleven storytellers from seven states are participating in the residency, sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Cityfest, Inc., and led by TAHIRA. Participants are being trained by masters in storytelling, African dance, and African drumming through group instruction, independent study, research, and performance rehearsal. The cohort will also explore African American history in Delaware, creating original stories based on their experiences.

The 2024 WBSR participants are Nzinga Asele El (California), Craig Bradley (New Jersey), Le’Trice Buckingham (Illinois), Shelley Davis (Illinois), Chetter M. Galloway (Georgia), Leslie D. Hamilton (Pennsylvania), Vienna Carroll (New York), Janet E. McDonald (Pennsylvania), Venida C. Rodman Jenkins (New Jersey), Noelle Lorraine Williams (New Jersey), and Roshanda Womack (Michigan). Master teachers for this year’s WBSR include Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed, Emily Hooper Lansana, and Kim Graham. Guest teachers are Tiana Jackson (African Dance), Amina Naru (Yoga), and Jea Street, Jr. (Songwriting).

The 2024 Residency is also supported by community partners such as the Christina Cultural Arts Center, the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, the Delaware Historical Society, the Delaware History Museum, the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, and The Monday Club.

WBSR also engages with the youth of Cityfest Arts Work through five 90-minute sessions that include group instruction, culture, history, music, and movement. Local and regional teaching artists, including Project Director TAHIRA and Kim Graham, guide the youth in composing and performing storytelling.

Arts Work/Arts Work Live!, a project of the City of Wilmington and Cityfest, Inc., is a year-round apprenticeship opportunity for youth ages 14-20, teaching artistic, personal, and entrepreneurial skills in the context of creating sellable art. Arts Work is supported by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on DelawareScene.com.

The WBSR is an annual program that elevates Black storytelling as an art form and a vital cultural practice. By bringing together storytellers from across the country, the residency fosters a deep understanding and appreciation of the rich history and ongoing contributions of Black communities. WBSR aims to enhance the skills of emerging and experienced storytellers in story crafting and performance and to expand their knowledge of African Diaspora storytelling.

Cityfest, Inc., produces activities to promote economic development and community revitalization through arts programming, special events, and tourism. Its activities foster appreciation for Wilmington’s diverse culture, history, and heritage; eliminate prejudice and discrimination through public education; combat community deterioration; promote the beautification and revitalization of Wilmington; and lessen neighborhood tension. Cityfest’s most ambitious undertaking is the Urban Artist Exchange Neighborhood Revitalization Project, Wilmington’s first major creative placemaking project. This program is presented by Cityfest, Inc. and the City of Wilmington Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs with support from the Delaware Division of the Arts, the Kenny Family Foundation, and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

TAHIRA is a nationally celebrated storyteller, musician, vocalist, and songwriter with a nearly three-decade career, known for blending music and story into inspirational performances. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Temple University’s School of Communication and Theatre and is a Delaware Division of the Arts Established Professional Fellow in Folk Art: Oral Literature. She has performed at the internationally acclaimed festival PANAFEST in Ghana, West Africa, and is a Lifetime Member of the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc., recipient of the Linda Jenkin Brown Nia Award, and the 2023 Delaware Division of Arts Master Fellowship for her outstanding contributions to Oral Literature.

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