Eva Abram believes that the simple act of listening to a story together builds community among an audience.
A professional storyteller, Abram was at the Edmonds Library in late February to present: “Brer Rabbit and Friends: African American Storytelling for All.” The event was hosted by the Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition with a grant from the City of Edmonds Diversity Commission as part of Black History Month.
“African American history is American history. So we can talk about it every month,” Abram told the audience.
Brer Rabbit – brer is short for “brother” – is a clever trickster always good for a laugh. His children know the power of the magic word, “Please.” When Brer Tiger used his strength to hoard food and water during hard times, all the other animals banded together to teach him the importance of sharing.
Abram’s storytelling becomes a shared experience.
“Pancakes, pancakes, pancakes and molasses,” audience members sang along with the story as Brer Rabbits’ children were looking forward to a special breakfast. Singing, spelling out loud and creating the sounds of a big wind storm, the crowd appeared transformed by the power of the spoken story.
“This is so much more fun than sitting at home talking to myself,” Abram said.
Sharing black culture and building community in Edmonds are ongoing goals, said the event’s organizer Courtney Wooten. Wooten spoke briefly at the event about Suburbia Rising, her community group that sponsors educational workshops on race and training in community action.
While libraries are full of stories, the tradition of oral storytelling is different than the written word, Edmonds Library Manager Richard Suico says. He said he’s is happy to have his building be a place where diverse people and their stories can gather.
For Kate Erickson, Abram’s storytelling event was the first time she’d brought any of her 11 foster children to a library storytime.
“We have a multicultural family that’s constantly changing,” Erickson said. Her 6-year-old daughter has been coming home upset recently, wondering why she’s the only child in her class with what she called dark skin and “poofy” hair. Erickson said that seeing Abram, the multiracial presenters and diverse audience of 60-plus people was helpful for her daughter.
Abram credits libraries with being essential meeting places in today’s culture. “Stories nourish our communities and our souls,” she told the audience.
— Courtesy Sno-Isle Libraries