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Mary Mother Carter Smith
Old Handwritten Letter
Map of Africa

The Story of the Griots

Our Mission:

African griots (pronounced gree' o), the historians and storytellers for their community, inspired Maryland's afrocentric storytellers to create the Griots' Circle of Maryland, Inc. The primary goal of the association is to educate and enrich the storytelling knowledge and abilities of the members and the community. This non-profit organization is dedicated to uplifting the folklore and traditions of our African heritage through storytelling, poetry, music, and other educational activities.

Our Beginnings:

Founded in Baltimore in 1989, the members include experienced and beginning storytellers and others who are interested in the African oral tradition. With the guidance of Mary Carter Smith, Maryland's official griot, the founders developed an organization that would increase the public's awareness of our African and African American heritage. The Griots' Circle first president, S. Bunjo Butler, provided leadership for the initial activities. In 1990, the first storytelling programs were presented at Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library and Morgan State University. Over 700 people were in attendance at these performances. The audiences enjoyed historical legends, African fables, modern fairytales and ghost stories. Another highlight of our beginnings was the storytelling recording "Griots Gather Round" which was produced by Baba Jamal Koram.

Our National Network:

The Griots' Circle of Maryland is an affiliate of the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS). In 1992 and 2002, "In The Tradition . . ." the National Festival of Black Storytelling was held in Baltimore. Under the leadership of Griots' Circle presidents Fellisco Keeling and Eslyn Hinmon, the members hosted storytellers and visitors from across the country, Canada and the Caribbean. The 5 day conference included workshops, performances in the schools, historical tours and an African marketplace. Throughout the years, members of the Griots' Circle have been honored with awards at this annual event. Also the Growing Griots, a youth storytelling program, has produced dynamic young storytellers who perform nationally and locally. The Griots' Circle continues to network with storytellers and storytelling organizations nationwide.

Our Vision:

Thanks to leadership such as former president Eslyn Hinmon, the Griots' Circle has a firm foundation for continuing the African oral tradition. Griots' Circle members are active in the community and abroad. They have performed for radio, television, schools, libraries, museums and other cultural events. Our current president, Janice Curtis Greene, and the other officers look forward to widening our storytelling circle. We plan to produce storytelling materials, to share Afrocentric cultural information through our Web-site and to create storytelling opportunities for young people and families. Everyone can take part in our future.

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