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Storyteller Raouf Mama narrates poems that teach life lessons

Published on February 25, 2021

Storyteller Raouf Mama narrates poems that teach life lessons

Dr. Mama

Award-winning storyteller and best-selling author Raouf Mama, professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University, presented “Journey and a Joining: A Reflection on the Tragedy and the Triumph of the African and African-American Experience Through Storytelling” on Feb. 23.

Organized by Eastern’s Intercultural Center, Mama narrated three poems during his virtual performance to teach valuable life lessons. He concluded with a question and answer session to discuss the meaning behind each story.

In the YouTube Live presentation, Mama wore traditional West African garments and sang in his native language. The first story he demonstrated was an anonymous poem titled “The Interview with God.”

The second poem he performed was written by American writer Julius Lester from his collection on black folktales. Set in a village in Africa, “The Girl with the Large Eyes” is about a girl who was able to save her village from a drought by finding them water, but faced judgement and disapproval from her family when they found out how she got water.

Mama said he decided to tell this story because it illustrates how “history holds many examples of people who became the targets of oppression, persecution, murder and genocide, simply because they were different. Sometimes the choices we make, make people uncomfortable and turn them into our enemies — even those who claim to love us.”

During the question and answer period, Starsheemar Byrum, director of the Author L. Johnson Unity Wing, said, “In my own personal journey, that was one that I could connect with,” when talking about “The Girl with the Big Eyes.”

“She wasn’t willing to conform, and I think in today’s 21st century, students are becoming more and more enlightened on that subject and different belief systems.”

The third poem Professor Mama recited was “The Hunter and the Magical Antelope” about a magical antelope that granted wishes to a hunter. This poem represented greed, decision-making and consequences, and a sense of community.

Mama incorporated many elements into his narrations, using the space around him by walking from side-to-side, moving his arms, hand gestures, singing and using different voices for various characters.

With his ability to tell stories in four different languages, Mama won the Benin National Teachers of English Association’s Award in 2019 for outstanding storytelling and service. He teaches African literature, storytelling and public speaking and language translations at Eastern.

To watch his performance, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzaJ0Wu-sPM.

Written by Bobbi Brown