Storytelling: an ancient tradition–its modern uses


Where in the world have I been? Telling stories, of course, near and far!

ANANSE SoundSplash 2014 Storytelling Festival & Conference, Jamaica, W.I. 

Ananse SoundSplash 2014, Jamaica, W.I. Image: Ananse SoundSplash 2014, November 19 – 24, Jamaica, W.I. an international contingent of storytellers: Amina Blackwood Meeks, Eintou Pearl Springer (Trinidad), Jan Blake (U.K.), Edgar Ortiz (Costa Rica), Michael Kerins (Scotland), Nomsa Mdlalose (South Africa), Diane Ferlatte, Djeliba Baba, The Storycrafters Jeri Burns and Barry Marshall, and Denise Valentine (U.S.).

Ntukuma, the Storytelling Foundation of Jamaica, chose the theme for Ananse SoundSplash 2014 REDISCOVER, RETELL, RENEW to honor the contributions of Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey in the year of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).  An international contingent of storytellers celebrated the official proclamation of November 20th as Jamaica’s National Storytelling Day (coinciding with Universal Children’s Day) with a week of storytelling events all over the island, including at Louise Bennett Garden Theatre and Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Moneague College in Saint Ann Parish, and Montego Bay Community College

Academic presentations focused on the following topics:

  • History as Legends
  • Storytelling and Reparation
  • Storytelling as Philosophy
  • Storyteller: Teacher, Entertainer, Healer
  • Ananse and Cultural Decolonization
  • Social Identity and Storytelling
  • Rediscover, Retell, Renew


Adinkra Symbols of West Africa



spider’s web, wisdom, creativity



History and Reconstruction ~  Beginning in fall 2014,  the storyteller collaborated in a project funded by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, with historian Phillip Seitz, William Goldsby, chair of Reconstruction Inc., and a cohort of ex-offenders to address the question: How can deep knowledge of history change lives? 

Denise introduced concepts of African and African American storytelling traditions. This provides a cultural context which the cohort could use for navigating new or difficult knowledge.  She assisted cohort members in building storytelling skills, tools and techniques needed to infuse their stories with lessons from history when communicating their experiences to the community.

The storyteller seeks to help cohort members :

  • Reclaim their ancestral names and homeland.
  • Reclaim their stories.
  • Reclaim the power and authority to speak; become the “storyholders” for themselves and their communities.
History and Reconstruction

Project Showcase: History and Reconstruction. Project storyteller Denise Valentine (center), psychologist Dr. Thomas Gordon (right), members of the cohort and friends. Photo courtesy of Phillip Seitz. (Public History Commons)

Read more at Public History Commons…


mate masie MATE MASIE wisdom, knowledge, prudence. What I hear, I keep.



Denise Valentine has been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Sankofa Research Award (SRA). FOTA assists Folk/Traditional Artists in accomplishing a research project that will enhance their work. This award will support her continuing research in family history, examining tales told generation-to-generation, collecting DNA evidence and written records. In March of 2015, she traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, home of her paternal grandparents, to unravel the complicated threads of her family’s history. Come to WHERE DOES MY STORY BEGIN? at Philadelphia Folklore Project on May 16th, as she recounts her journey to find her family’s place in the story of freedom and slavery in America. This program is presented by Linda Goss and made possible by Friends of the Artists (FOTA).


 SANKOFA “Return and get it” Learn from the past.



What’s up next?

Click here for details on WHERE DOES MY STORY BEGIN? and Upcoming Spring and Summer 2015 Performances!



 Thanks for stopping by! Your comments are welcome!

Posted in arts and culture, Blackstorytelling, culture and politics, education, humanities, Public History and Memory, storytelling and folklore | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Storytelling, History and Reconstruction

Storytelling as a tool to develop Culture, Community & Capacity-Building

I am honored to be the storyteller for History and Reconstruction, a collaborative history project between Phillip Seitz (historian) and Reconstruction, Inc. (William Goldsby, Chair), a grassroots organization for post-incarceration reentry and reintegration.

Alumni ex-offenders, together with historians, a psychologist and a storyteller seek to answer the question: How can deep knowledge and exploration of African American history impact lives?

Reconstruction, Inc. (PcAH)

Members of Reconstruction, Inc. at their 2013 Annual Meeting. Philadelphia. (Image: PCAH)

The purpose of the storytelling component of the project is to craft stories drawn from archival research related to slavery and other traumatic history. Cohort members from Reconstruction, Inc. will hear and discuss historical research revealing numerous acts of resilience, resistance and reciprocity carried out by Africans under this oppressive reality. They will learn to craft new stories by combining historical knowledge with elements of African and African-American folklore, culture, oral history and their personal insights. In the process of crafting and sharing these stories, cohort members will reclaim and strengthen a sense of resilience, self-determination and dignity to utilize as they become leaders, raise families and build community.

The storytelling component has been designed to compliment Reconstruction, Inc.’s capacity-building curriculum. (See Reconstructing Rage: Transformative Reentry in the Era of Mass Incarceration (Black Studies & Critical Thinking: Spirituality & Indigenous Thought) by Townsand Price-Spratlen and William Goldsby.)

Reconstructing Rage

Reconstructing Rage: Transformative Reentry in the Era of Mass Incarceration (Black Studies & Critical Thinking: Spirituality & Indigenous Thought) by Townsand Price-Spratlen and William Goldsby.

Ideally, public storytelling performances at the conclusion of the project will demonstrate the role of expressive cultural arts (traditional and modern) in identity, continuity and the struggle for justice.

This will be a year-long initiative, and is made possible by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. For more information about this project visit the website for Reconstruction, Inc. or grantee and project manager, Phillip Seitz, History for Healing.  


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The Man Who Wouldn’t Stay Dead

Aaron was dead. Only, he refused to accept it. He strolls casually into his funeral, sits next to his widow and says “Looks like somebody dead. Who dead?” His widow says “You dead.”  Aaron replies “Me dead. I don’t feeeeel dead.” Thus, begins the story of Dead Aaron.

I knew I had finally found a scary story I could tell.

There was a time in my storytelling career when I didn’t tell ghost stories, or scary stories. I felt that the spirit world was nothing to mess around with. However, I was presented with two opportunities that made me begin to reconsider. It was time to come to terms with the reasons I didn’t want to tell scary stories. Why did the idea make me so uncomfortable?

Personally, I find Halloween to be a frivolous and materialistic occasion (like most holidays in the U.S.).  But while I still I don’t celebrate it; I decided to accept the challenge and learn to tell ghost stories.  I could explore the historical significance of Halloween and search for stories that resonate with my spirit as well as entertain my audience.

My first spooky assignment was a storyteller on the “Ghost Bus” for Eastern State Penitentiary’s annual haunted house. That turned out to be a fun and interesting, yet, unfulfilling experience.  The historic penitentiary is one of Philadelphia’s coolest and creepiest places, complete with crumbling ceilings, rusty bars that creaked and wild vegetation growing through every crack in the floors and walls. It was a little difficult, though, to reconcile the fact that this attraction was the site of so much misery for its former residents (the presence of which I swear I could feel in the chill air). It was fun working with so many actors and storytellers, most plastered in varying degrees of horror.  Not so much fun: long hours in the cold, wind, rain and even snow; telling pre-scripted stories, ten times fast, using the bus driver’s mic, to die-hard “bet you can’t scare me” fright fanatics.

My second assignment, the Chestnut Hill Ghost Walk, a fundraising event for Teenagers, Inc., was infinitely more rewarding. The setting: Victorian-era mansions and a church graveyard. The audience was made up of adorable trick-or-treaters, from tots to teens, and their grown-ups.  Most importantly, I had the freedom to choose my own tales. And, I scared the crap out of those little kiddies, without resorting to blood and guts. Well, maybe just a little.

I chilled ghost walkers to the bone with a telling of Dead Aaron. I first read the story, a traditional folktale, in the book Raw head, bloody bones : African-American tales of the supernatural, by Mary E Lyons (New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ©1991). Later, I was inspired by a version recorded by my friend, storyteller Glynis Brooks.

Listen to my performance of Dead Aaron!

Denise - Ghost Walk

I had so much fun researching, adapting and telling these stories. I now have a repertoire of scary stories I love to tell, that I call the Witch of Wopsy Mountain & Other Ghostly Lore. It’s a collection of spine-tingling tales from the Deep South, Appalachia, the Caribbean, and even some local haunts.

My favorite scary stories include:


They say, Baba Yaga flies in a giant mortar, using a pestle as her rudder.

She lives in a house on dancing chicken legs, with eyeballs for windows.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite ghost stories?

Posted in arts and culture, storytelling and folklore | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Ancestral Remembrance Day – June 2 – Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony & Port Marker Project  

Recorded Ships Postcard Front

Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony

June 2nd, 2014

5:30 – 7;30 PM

On the Pier behind

Independence Seaport Museum

Penn’s Landing

211 South Columbus Blvd & Walnut Street 

Philadelphia, PA 19106


​Research identifying all ports of entry for Africans during the 350 years of the transatlantic human trade* identifies the Port of Philadelphia on the Delaware River as one of more than 175 middle passage ports in 50 nations of North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe.

In 2013, 2014, and 2015, the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) plans to conduct ancestral remembrance ceremonies by geographic regions in all U.S. cities that were middle passage ports.

In support of MPCPMP’s mission, on June 2, each year, the Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony & Port Marker Project (PhillyMPC) will honor our ancestors and commemorate the nearly 2 million Africans who perished in the Middle Passage.

PhillyMPC’s mission is to gather support for the application and installation of a historical marker in their memory. We celebrate the triumphant survival of the descendants of those Africans, and their contributions to this nation. Finally, we call for healing and hope for future generations.

This process includes compiling and disseminating research on the transatlantic slave trade, as it relates to Philadelphia. We will hold healing and remembrance ceremonies, and other events to encourage discussion, reflection and community initiatives toward reconciliation and repair.


Philly Middle Passage Project

Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony
June 2nd, 2014


This year, 2014, Libations and a Blessing of the River will be led by Iya Marilyn Kai Jewett, Oni Sango, ordained priest in the Yoruba/Ifa tradition of West Africa.


The Delaware River in Philadelphia flows through the American American past and present. It represents the pain of the Great MAAFA; our connection to Ancestral homelands; the triumphant survival of the descendants of those Africans, and our call for healing and hope for future generations.

~Denise Valentine


Join us as we Honor Our Ancestors, on June 2, 2014, 5:30 – 7:30 PM with a Remembrance Ceremony including a Blessing of the River, Community performances and expressions.​


On the Pier

On the Pier behind Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia PA



Bring your drum, bring your bells, bring flowers or candles, bring your voice, or just bring your spirit to Honor Our Ancestors and Uplift Our Youth.





Tides of Freedom

Tides of Freedom – African Presence on the Delaware River, Independence Seaport Museum



If you haven’t yet seen Tukufu Zuberi’s groundbreaking exhibit Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River  at Independence Seaport Museum, arrive early for admission (fee required) to the museum.



Please visit PhillyMPC’s website for more information and to make a contribution toward the marker application.




Denise Valentine

Project Coordinator:

The Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony & Port Marker Project

PhillyMPC Poster 2014




 Ashe! Ashe!

See also:

Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony & Port Marker Project 

Independence Seaport Museum uncovers treasures of “African Presence on the Delaware River”

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Unsolved problems – and the search for solutions  

Infinity symbol (

‘You have given yourself the trouble to go into matters thoroughly, I see. That is one of the secrets of success in life.’

Anthony Powell, The Kindly Ones, 2nd Movement in A Dance to the Music of Time University of Chicago Press, 1995

Qtd in:  Cut the Knot


“a2 + b2 = c2”  is the formula for…?

1. Recipe for Apple Banana Cobbler.

2. Square on the Hypotenuse.

3. Haven’t got a clue. 


Answer: a squared + b squared = c squared is the formula for the Square on the Hypotenuse, also known as the Pythagorean Theorem.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Liber Abaci, Leonardo da Pisa (1202)


Liber Abbaci 

the historic Book of Calculation 

revolutionized economics.

Puzzles and riddles

made arithmetic available to the masses.

When I studied Geometry and Algebra in high school, I couldn’t quite figure out why we were adding, subtracting and multiplying the letters of the alphabet. In order to understand alphanumeric equations and formulae, I needed to know what these abstractions stood for, and something about their practical use in the real world. Why would I want to know, for instance, the sum of the Square on the Hypotenuse?  Let’s say, I am an architect or carpenter and I want to lay out concrete footing for a new building?

The HiStory of Math

When Ancient Egyptians needed a way to lay out square corners for their fields, they surveyed the land by using lengths of rope knotted into 12 equal sections and stretched the rope around three stakes arranged in a triangle. Because they knew that if two sides of a right triangle are known (a and b) you can substitute these values in a formula to find the missing side (c). In a right triangle the square on the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides. Pythagoreans knew, as did the Egyptians before them, that this formula for the square on the hypotenuse was the “most accurate method available” for making square 90 degree angles.

Pythagorean Theorem Origins

Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher and mathematician born around 530 B.C., is credited with formulating the Pythagorean Theorem. However, it was certainly known earlier. He founded a brotherhood called the Pythagoreans in Crotona, Italy, among the aristocrats of that city, which later came under siege in a political uprising. Pythagoras’ fate is unknown (Sacred Texts).

The 60 Second Version

The Kemetic Mystery System

There is evidence of mathematics coming from China, Egypt, India, Mesopotamia – even from pre-Columbus Mayans in Central America. A number of documents have survived that allow us insight into the ancient Egyptians’ approach to mathematics. The Rhind papyrus reveals the ancient Egyptians were dealing with numbers around 1550 BC. It contains 84 different calculations. A History of the World in 100 objects, by Neil MacGregor.

Although we usually credit the ancient Greeks with laying the groundwork for medicine, other sciences, philosophy and mathematics, the ancient Greeks credited the Kemites (Egyptians). Discovery Channel

Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Socrates, Plato and other Classical Greek thinkers traveled to Kemet to expand their knowledge.  

  • Hippocrates, who is commonly referred to as “the father of medicine,” studied the Egyptian Imhotep’s method of diagnosis in Kemet. [He] lived 2,500 years before Hippocrates.
  • Pythagoras, commonly referred to as “the father of mathematics,” traveled to Kemet where he studied geometry and other mathematics with the Kemetic priests.

Imhotep, Physician, High Priest and Scribe, was chief architect to the Egyptian pharaoh Djoser (reigned c.2630 – c.2611 BC). He was responsible for the world’s first known monumental stone building, the Step Pyramid at Sakkara and is the first architect we know by name.

EG04 9738  Menkaure, Chephren & Cheops, Giza P...

Menkaure, Chephren & Cheops, Giza Plateau (Photo credit: Templar1307) EG04 9738

Aristotle wrote, “Egypt was the cradle of mathematics.” Egypt, of course, was Kemet. Discovery Channel


The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution (Keith Devlin). Until the 13th century, even simple arithmetic was accessible almost exclusively to scholars. Merchants kept track of quantifiables using Roman numerals, performing calculations either by an elaborate yet widespread fingers procedure or with a clumsy mechanical abacus. But in 1202, a young Italian man named Leonardo da Pisa — known today as Fibonacci — changed everything when he wrote Liber Abbaci, a historic book on arithmetic, Latin for Book of Calculation

Fibonacci “revolutionized everything from education to economics,” using puzzles and riddles to “alleviate the tedium of calculation and making arithmetic available to the masses.”

For Math Geeks and Wizzes 

Riemann hypothesis


The Story of Maths – Episode 4 To Infinity and Beyond

BBC Documentary (YouTube)

Unsolved problems – and the search for solutions

The Story of Maths 

To Infinity and Beyond Short course  on OpenLearn

Marcus du Sautoy examines unsolved problems that confronted 20th-century mathematicians.


Fun Facts:

There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar. Real World Math Lesson Plan (Teachnet)

The story of 1729 and other weird math facts  – When Srinivasa Ramanujan, the great Indian mathematician, was ill with tuberculosis in a London hospital, his colleague G. H. Hardy went to visit him. Hardy, trying to initiate conversation, said to Ramanujan, “I came here in taxi-cab number 1729. That number seems dull to me which I hope isn’t a bad omen.”

“Nonsense,” replied Ramanujan. “The number isn’t dull at all. It’s quite interesting. It’s the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.” (Ramanujan recognized that 1729 = 13 + 123 as well as 93 + 103.)

Invention of Zero

  • The Origin of Zero by John Matson. Much ado about nothing: First a placeholder and then a full-fledged number, zero had many inventors.

Once upon a time there was no zero. Of course people knew if they had nothing, but there was no mathematical notation for it.



African American Mathematicians

Let’s not forget the women

Hypatia was an Alexandrine Neoplatonist philosopher in Egypt who was the first well-documented woman in mathematics.

Black Women in Antiquity

Math Refresher

Bottom line, math problems, riddles and puzzles can help sharpen your problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making skills. If you need to brush-up, try these math refreshers. Feel free to suggest your favorite games and teasers.

The Physical Universe

Proof Puzzle

For the clueless pdf downloads

Math for Dummies 

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Spirit of Birds

   The Spirit of Birds

There was a time

when peace was on the Earth,

and joy and happiness did reign

and each man

knew his worth.

In my heart how I yearn for that spirit’s return

And I cry, as time flies…

The Creator Has A Master Plan, Leon Thomas and Pharoah Sanders (1968)

teal_hum_birds_103 There are 8,600 species of birds in the world today and they play a vital role in the balance of nature. They eat insects, pests and small animals. Fruit eating birds scatter seeds. We eat eggs and meat from birds and we use their feathers for pillows, quilts and clothing.

Weve written books, poetry, stories, and songs about the beauty of birds. Many birds have become symbols for human values: the owl – wisdom, the dove – peace, and the eagle – political power. 

Birds can become disoriented when they’re flying through heavily-polluted areas. Also, their “calendars” can get thrown off if their directions are switched, adversely affecting the environments that the birds serve. The absence or delay of birds can distort ecological balance.

 “The Spirit of Bird is not on planet Earth as an observer, but as a participant. Birds, encompassing the Sky, are reminders of Spirit, and that which is above, but not higher, than Earth biology. …It is the presence of birds that remind us that there is something “up there.” That something that is “up there” is down here, and knows no physical demarcation. Spirit is everywhere, and evident in all forms. Birds, to fly, must also touch the Earth.” 

— Galadriel, Essay, The Mill Pond


Birds as Spirit Guides



“A Little Birdie Told Me”   hum_birds_247

In many stories birds appear as messengers with lessons about things we need to learn or overcome.  There are some who believe that birds serve as our teachers, protectors, and spiritual guides. Crick, High Priest of Whispering Woods Coven, says: … that this guide brings out inner fears that we must be able to face and conquer in order to grow spiritually.


Blackbird – primal feminine energy, trance work, territorial, omens, mysticism, promise 

Bluebird – Throat chakra, confidence, transformation, happiness

 Blue Jay – Linking of heaven and earth, survival, control, resourcefulness, imbalance in one’s life

 Canary – mysteries of song, healing, happiness, inner awakening, warning of danger or impending perils

 Cardinal – Inspiration of self-importance, courtship, opportunities

 Catbird – New communication skills, fertility, exposure

 Chickadee – Mystery, social, truth, fearless, honest perceptions

 Chicken – Sexuality, awakening powers, fertility, divination

 Cockatoo – Survival, beauty, communication, connection with solar energy

 Cowbird – Resolving old issues, grounding

 Crane – Past life experiences, secrecy, creative resources

 Crow – Magic, solitude, shape-shifter, creation, alertness, spiritual strength

 Cuckoo – Dealing with fate, new beginnings

 Doves – Female sexuality, peace, spiritual messengers, connection with other Earth, prophecy

 Duck – Emotional state, water energy, communal, feminine energies, astral plane

 Eagle – spiritual, weather control, creation, sense of balance, illumination of spirit, in-depth perception, awareness, healing, opportunities, spiritual growth

 Falcon – Astral travel, magic, swiftness, healing of the spirit, command of the skies

 Finch – Potential opportunities, activities

 Flicker – Rhythm, nurturing, spiritual growth, personal insight, inner growth

 Goldfinch – Link to spiritual realm, understanding the value of change, nature spirits, visualization, awakening of spiritual beings

 Goose – fertility, spiritual quest, fidelity, imprinting life lessons, community, awakening of the imagination

 Grackle – Clearing of emotions, accomplishment, growth, insight, coping with life situations

 Grouse – Natural rhythm, creation, traveling through the great spiral, new dimensions

 Gull – Ecology, cleanliness, faery contact, spiritual messenger, communication

 Hawk – Visionary power, illumination, healing, life force, experience, psychic energies

 Heron – Wisdom, dignity, individualism, exploration, balance, stability

 Hornbill – Maternal instinct, overcoming obstacles, independence

 Hummingbird – Healing, relationships, love, faery realm, joy, accomplishments, architects, relaxation

 Kestrel – Aura of mystery, agility, speed, attentive, patience

 Kingfisher – Peace, prosperity, indifference, new experiences, teaching of offspring, abundance, new life

 Kite – Clarity, awareness, spiritual communication, prophecy, change

 Loon – Adaption, controlling the dream state, astral plane, awareness, visions

 Magpie – Encounters with the spirit realm, use of ritual, changing luck, inspiring intelligence, witchcraft, prophecy

 Martin – Peace, communal, positive change, good luck

 Meadowlark – Noble acts, clarity, positive spiritual quest, soul-searching, cheerfulness

 Mockingbird – Courage, opportunities, learning through experience, master of languages, attitude, realization of inner talents

 Nuthatch – Faith, truth, courage, faith in ones abilities, grounding

~Crick, founder and High Priest of Whispering Woods coven, dedicated to the love and worship of the God and Goddess.






 “Free as a Bird”

                                      “Fly like an Eagle”


Human beings have always been captivated by birds in flight. But even artificial flight by humans was considered impossible until it happened.  Flight as a spiritual mode of transport means to “transcend the physical environment,” “to incorporate the weightlessness of Spirit.”

I once heard a story about a prince soaring high in the sky… 
until someone tells him it isn’t possible.


Remember the expression, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

If you’re an eagle, don’t hang around chickens …. Chickens don’t fly!


“…And once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,
for there you have been and there you long to return.”
~leonardo de vinci



The birth of eagle lore

 By Ken Edwards

 whenever you look to the sky and see the eagle, remember that you can’t fly if you don’t have feathers. Keep true to our traditions, and remember – knowledge is our wings and our feathers.


The Eagle’s Flight

Before the people of corn, our people, came to this earth, eagles walked from place to place to get around. Once there was a girl who asked her grandmother how it was that eagle’s learned to fly. “Eagles,” Grandmother began, “didn’t always know how to fly. This is what the ancient ones say…”

The Catskill Eagle 

written and narrated by Julie Reder Fairley 

In a blackened gorge, high in the Catskills, there once lived an eagle. Unlike her peers, however, this eagle could not fly.

The Flying Contest

The AFRO-American Almanac

One day, as the birds of a certain place were talking, an argument arose as to who could fly the highest.


More bird images – copyrighted images that can not be reproduced here.

Russell Hansen Collection   Breathtaking!

Gina Mikel

Endangered Birds Gallery

Make Your Very Own Flying Origami Crane


You can make a beautiful paper Dove of Peace  


International Crane Foundation’s Children’s International Art Exchange from students around the world, offers an opportunity to educate children and adults about ecosystem protection and restoration.


Posted in arts and culture, Peace and Sustainability, storytelling and folklore, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Tribute to my Radiantly Beautiful Daughter

Chanelle Washington, Founder of Indigofera

October 1st, is the Birthday of my first born, my daughter Chanelle Washington. Today, I celebrate the radiantly beautiful woman she has become.

That she would be enterprising and ambitious, was apparent even at age five. While still in high-school, she sold out a bus excursion to a shopping outlet to raise money for her prom, and made her own gown! Chanelle @ the Prom

I have watched her face professional challenges and personal hardship with courage and dignity and emerge victoriously. As a student nurse at Temple University she was inducted to Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society for Nurses, and graduated with an R.N. and a B.S. She would later earn a M.B.A. from University of Phoenix.

Today, she is a successful entrepreneur. Founder and CEO of Indigofera Beauty, a signature plant-based hair and skin care line. Indigofera products are sought after and distributed internationally. Just as with her bedside manner as a nurse (as her patients have often remarked), she gives each of her clients loving personal care.

Indigofera Beauty

She shares her message “Be Radiantly Beautiful” with thousands of women now, as an author, inspirational keynote speaker, and business consultant. Recently she launched two new brands: the Indigofera Institute and, and published, Radiant Living: A Guide to Joy, Self Love & Abundance (2013).

Happy Birthday Chanelle! I’m so proud of you. I Love You.

With All My Heart,

Check her out!


Be Radiantly Beautiful!

UPDATE 10/1/2015!

Chanelle’s new business Radiant Living Business and Marketing Solutions!
Twitter:  @RadiantLiving_ or @iloveindigofera

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Bethel African Burial Ground Archaeological Survey

Reviving the memory of thousands forgotten in burial ground beneath Philly playground (via NewsWorks)

July 26, 2013 By Peter Crimmins @petercrimmins Underneath the swing sets of an urban playground in the Queen Village neighborhood of South Philadelphia are the forgotten remains of an estimated 3,000 African-Americans.   This week, a team of archaeologists…

Continue reading

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Roots & Wings

Roots & Wings

I believe that Stories are like Roots to the Past… and Wings to the Future.

Denise Valentine, Storyteller

Denise Valentine, Professional Storyteller, Teaching Artist, Public Speaker, Historical Performer, Consultant

Amazing Trees, Awesome Roots.


Umbrella Thorn Acacia Tree

About the tree that inspired my logo: 

The Umbrella Thorn Acacia “Mimosa Tree” gets its name from a spreading, flat-topped crown. It grows in the sand dunes and rocky grounds of Africa’s grasslands. This tree can survive 122° F temperatures during the day, freezing temperatures at night,  and an annual rainfall as low as 4 cm. A deep taproot, which can reach 115 ft under the ground, and a second set of roots spread out just under the ground helps it get water during dry spells.

The Acacia provides shade for the animals of the savanna. The trunk of the tree makes very good charcoal and firewood. The flowers on the Acacia provide a good source of honey in some regions. The stem of the tree is used to treat asthma, and diarrhea. The bark of the acacia is used as a disinfectant, and the pods are used to make porridge.

Storyteller under a Baobab Tree

“Out of little seeds, great trees can grow!”

Animation Library



Plant Sequence Cutaway

The tips of small plant roots move through the soil with a twisting screw-like motion. Mature trees can have as many as 5 million active root tips. 

The plants growing in a 2-acre wheat field can have more than 30,000 miles of roots, greater than the circumference of the Earth.

The Deeper the Roots…

The Stronger the Tree.

Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, California. TREES AROUND THE WORLD

Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, California. TREES AROUND THE WORLD

Truth is like a baobab tree; one person’s arms cannot embrace it. (African proverb)

Australian Baobab tree Adansonia gibbosa at De...

Australian Baobab tree Adansonia gibbosa at Derby, Western Australia Deutsch: Adansonia gregorii ist eine Pflanzenart der Gattung Affenbrotbäume (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About the Baobab Tree:

In traditional villages, children gathered under Baobab trees to listen to the elders telling stories. The baobab is a meeting-place, symbolic of the exchange of ideas and opinions. Some legends identify the Baobab as the one true Tree of Life.

The Baobab, also known as the “Monkey-bread tree,” is native to the savanna region of Senegal in Western Africa. It can also be found in the remote deserts of Australia, in Madagascar, or in Barbados (brought from Guinea). Most live over 500 years and some specimens in Africa are believed to be up to 5000 years old. With a circumference up to 51.5 ft (18.5m.), it takes 10-15 adults joining with outstretched arms to encircle it.

The Baobab looks as if it is growing upside-down, with twisted roots sitting atop a huge, smooth, trunk. According to legend, the baobab trees used to brag about being the most beautiful trees ever created. God was unhappy about the bragging trees, so as a punishment, he turned them upside down. But, the reason the baobab looks like this, is so that ts massive trunk can hold 300 –100,000 liters of water enabling it to live through long periods without rain. The baobab is leafless for nine months of the year. People use its leaves for medicine, its bark for cloth and rope, while the fruit, called “monkey bread”, is eaten. The hollowed-out trunks of dead trees have been used as prisons, and even as tombs. Sometimes people live inside of the huge trunks, and animals called “bush-babies” or “moonchildren” live in the crown.

The Spirit of Trees

English: Monarch butterflies in the trees and ...

English: Monarch butterflies in the trees and air at the Cerro Prieto Sanctuary of the Sierra Chincua, Michoacan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since ancient times, trees have been thought to have souls or spirits. The Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa) in Bodhgaya, India, is where the Buddha Guatama, meditated to attain enlightenment. To Native Americans, every plant, every tree, as well as Mother Earth and Father Sky, were imbued with a spirit.

Acacia trees were believed to have greater power than other trees because their roots penetrated more deeply into the Earth. Tales of their healing and sacred power have been told by elders, sung of by poets, and invoked by mystics.  (See: Spirit Trees and Plants: spirit plants).

Acacia tree resin gum has been used by traditional healers in diagnosis and treatment of disease, prophecy, and divination. In ancient times, a monarch, after becoming an initiate, was anointed king with Balsam Plant Oil (“Liquid Myrrh”). Among the titles of Osiris was ‘He that Dwelleth in the Acacia Tree’ (The Acacia Tree and the Rites of Initiation).  And, the Banyan tree is revered as the tree of justice among several cultures. Its wide spreading branches send trunk-like roots to the ground in order to support itself. A single Banyan trees may cover acres of ground.

Jacaranda Tree, Mpumalanga, South Africa

Jacaranda Tree, Mpumalanga, South Africa


Trees as Sanctuary  

The Roman philosopher Seneka wrote in the first century A.D.:

“If you come upon a grove of old trees that have lifted their crowns up above and shut out the light of the sky by the darkness of their interlacing boughs, you feel that there is a spirit in the place, so lofty is the wood, so lonely the spot, so wonderous the thick unbroken shade.”


Why do we rest so well in the shade of a tree? Forests and spirituality are intimately connected. There is an intricate relationship between a tree and the forms of life that live with it, and around it. Ancient people cherished and cultivated this connection. Human beings respond to it intuitively and spontaneously. In the forest our soul breathes. We enjoy moments of silent brooding and tranquility, nourishing the core of our being.

Not every tree possesses the same energy and meaning. Ancient people throughout the world set out certain forests as sacred. These special groves and forests were usually enclosed by stone walls. This enclosure was called in Greek Temenos. The Latin term for these demarcated places was templu, the original root of the word ‘temple.

The Buddha defined the forest as “a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it affords protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axeman who destroys it.”

From: Forests as Sanctuaries, by Henryk Skolimowski:
Forests as Sanctuaries.


As trees grow, they record historical events and the passage of time.


 OLD AS METHUSELAH – On the dry windswept mountaintops of the Great Basin in the western United States grow earth’s oldest living inhabitants, the bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva). With roots that go back over 4,600 years, it predates even the Great Pyramids. It has outlived entire civilizations, survived lethal attacks, weathered brutal climatic catastrophes, and weathered the Nuclear Age.



Strange Fruit – Hangman’s Tree 

In 1937 Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from New York, wrote of the poem, Strange Fruit, about the terror of lynching. The poem became a song, best-known from Billie Holiday’s poignant 1939 rendition.

An estimated 5000 black men and women were lynched in the U.S. from the 1890s to the 1960s.

 A People without Knowledge of their history… 

Are like a Tree without ROOTS.


In overthrowing me, you have cut only the trunk of the tree of liberty. It will spring again from the roots for they are numerous and deep.” 

— Toussaint L’Ouverture, 1802

Each One, Reach One

Each One, Reach One
Bongsanglay Mangrove Natural Park

As each group seeks their separate roots and origins, society fractures along a thousand fissure lines. When neighbors distance themselves from neighbors, continue your … quest for your truer roots in the deepest regions of your lives. Seek out the primordial “roots” of humankind.

~ Daisaku Ikeda, Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land




Family Trees

Family Trees

Family Tree templates







To be Continued with The Spirit of Birds.  



Copyrighted and other images that could not be included above.

Posted in arts and culture, education, humanities, Peace and Sustainability, storytelling and folklore, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony & Port Marker Project

Ancestral Remembrance Day

Ancestral Remembrance Day

Ancestral Remembrance Day | The Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony &Port Marker Project

The Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony & Port Marker Project  is leading the movement to conduct an Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony at Penn’s Landing. Our purpose is to acknowledge Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River as a port of entry for Africans during the transatlantic human trade; to commemorate the nearly 2 million Africans who perished in the Middle Passage; and, to install a marker in their memory.  We celebrate the triumphant survival of the descendants of those Africans, and their contributions to this nation. Finally, we call for healing and hope for future generations.

The inaugural ceremony takes place June 2, 2013, beginning with a Blessing of the River at 10:00 AM, on the pier at the Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing.  Activities from dawn to dusk will include libations, community performances, art exhibition, a screening of the film Toussaint Louverture and reception.

The Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony and Port Marker Project  is organized in support of a larger effort by Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, Inc. to sponsor remembrance ceremonies at each of more than 175 middle passage ports in 50 nations of North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. Ports in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia are listed in “Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database,” Emory University, as places where Afrikans were disembarked and sold.


Ancestral Remembrance Day Schedule:

Dawn 5:30 AM

Gather on the pier at Sunrise for Silent Observance
5 minute Reflection from wherever you are.

  • 10:00 AM                      Drummers begin procession to the Seaport Museum’s dock
  • 10:30 – 11:30 AM          Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony and Blessing of the River
  • 12:00  Noon                     Benefactor’s Reception (*Ticketed event)
  • 2:00 – 5:00 PM             Screening the Philadelphia premiere of TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE (*Ticketed event)
  • 6:00 PM: Open Mic and Closing Ceremony

Community Performances and Art Exhibition throughout the day.

Activities will conclude at Dusk (7:30 pm)


TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE starring Jimmy Jean-Louis!

Toussaint Louverture (ELOA PROD) premiers in Philadelphia, PA, June 2nd, 2PM!  @PhiladelphiaMPC. Brought to you by Harmony Image Productions and Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia.   | Click for Ticket information |

*Purchase a ticket for the film screening and receive a special discount for the Benefactors Reception preceding the film.


All events take place at Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing, 211 S. Columbus Blvd & Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19106, unless otherwise noted. Events on the pier are free and open to the public.


View the Trailer! 


Enjoy Community Performances & Artist Exhibition throughout the day!

Collage Artist, Theodore A. Harris

Theodore A. Harris will exhibit his work at participating museums for @PhiladelphiaMPC The artist in his studio.

Artists, Theodore A. Harris and Nancy-Ellen Churchville will exhibit their work at participating museums for @PhiladelphiaMPC .

The Art of Nancy-Ellen, Blackbird Series

Nancy-Ellen, will Exhibit her work at participating museums for @PhiladelphiaMPC


Download: PhillyMPC Postcard Pdf

Ancestral Remembrance Day

***************Stay Tuned!*****************

Denise Valentine, Storyteller

Denise Valentine, Professional Storyteller, Teaching Artist, Public Speaker, Historical Performer, Consultant

Denise Valentine, Project Coordinator

The Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony and Port Marker Project  



Facebook event:




Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, Inc.

In Cooperation with:

Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, Inc.

A Non-Profit Tax Exempt Organization

Remembering Ancestors

Ann Chinn, Executive Director


Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia  Generously donated its facilities as part of the programming for Tides of Freedom: African Presence of the Delaware River, curated by Tukufu Zuberi.

View a Photoshow of the Opening Ceremony on May 4th.


I Am an African River ~ Amadou Kouyate

Posted in arts and culture, culture and politics, education, exploration and conquest, history, humanities, Public History and Memory, storytelling and folklore | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments