Black History: Celebrating our differences in Greenport

02/11/2014 10:27 AM |
Storyteller and teaching artist Queen Nur in Greenport Friday. | Rachel Young

Storyteller and teaching artist Queen Nur in Greenport Friday. (Rachel Young photo)

“Everybody has their own rhythm and everybody has their own style — and that’s what makes America so beautiful.”

That’s what nationally renowned storyteller and teaching artist Queen Nur told students from Greenport and Oysterponds elementary schools Friday during a performance celebrating Black History Month.

The event, coordinated by Floyd Memorial Library, Greenport Central Schools and the Greenport and Oysterponds PTAs, featured engaging stories, African and African-American oral traditions and songs about historical black figures from the United States, like former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman and scientist George Washington Carver.

“We’re all people and we should all share in our common welfare,” said Joe Cortale, children’s librarian at the library.

Mr. Cortale said this is the fifth or sixth year Greenport Central Schools has hosted events to celebrate Black History Month. He said Greenport High School students attended a similar assembly Friday morning that featured more detailed stories and music.

During the elementary school’s assembly, Karen Abdul-Malik, who lives in New Jersey and travels the country as “Queen Nur” to educate children about African and African-American history, engaged students with animated storytelling, singing and dancing. One story was a cautionary tale about a little girl who is accidentally separated from her family and is put inside the drum of a bad man, who forces her to sing.

The message, Ms. Abdul-Malik told the children, is that people should look out for one another.

During the assembly, she also involved children directly in the performance by using call-and-response techniques and asking them to clap their hands and dance, resulting in enthusiastic giggles and excitement.

“I loved the students,” she said afterward. “Storytelling is feedback between the audience and the storyteller. It’s not like a play where you’re isolated and there’s a third wall. It’s about them as much as it is about us.”

The day’s lessons were twofold, Ms. Abdul-Malik said.

“The first message was about safety and celebrating our differences,” she said. “The second was about celebrating African-American history.”

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