Academic journal article Journal of American Folklore

Cultivating Folk Arts and Social Change

Academic journal article Journal of American Folklore

Cultivating Folk Arts and Social Change

Article excerpt

Asked to speak about minority traditions and activism, the author describes the work (and pleasure) of being in solidarity and coalition with local people. Describing social justice practices of storyteller Linda Goss, hair sculptor Yvette Smalls, and activist Ellen Somekawa and Asian Americans United, the author outlines how local people have guided the Philadelphia Folklore Project in shaping work over 25 years.


AFS ETHNOGRAPHIC THESAURUS: Folk art, urban folklore, public folklore, social justice, political activism, agency

I chose the topic "cultivating folk arts and social change" because it is something with which I wrestle, in very practical ways, every day.1

Finding a way to do my job responsibly has required me to develop a kind of cre- ole practice, weaving together a number of traditions against the folklore theory in which I was trained. I use practices borrowed from critical pedagogy and from crit- ical race studies-habits of addressing power and justice and tracing where bias creeps in (Brodkey 1996; Patricia Williams 1995; Matsuda 1996; Lee [1998] 2008). And I use principles borrowed from local people: "Beauty is as beauty does." "We cannot keep silent." And other sayings that condense the community wisdom that grounds me. And I use the insights of artists. The writer Toni Cade Bambara said: "I am trying to find out not only how a word gains its meaning but how a word gains its power" (Salaam 2008:59).

How to integrate these voices into something coherent, something my own, is a continuing challenge. Thoughts about (and work in) folk arts and social change ap- pears under many different names in widely different discourses and contexts. This is a good thing. The variety of understandings and approaches is both a challenge and an asset in movement-building. I speak from what the late and beloved folklor- ist Gerald Davis called the periphery, and primarily in regard to how we use folk arts (1996:119).

I try to keep an eye on the kinds of vision that guide this work. We have ample evidence of the transformative power of freedom dreams-re-imaginings of the world we want to live in, as described by historian Robin D. G. Kelley and others (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee fieldworkers, for example; see Payne 1995; Kel- ley 2002; Holsaert et al. 2010). As surely as Aimé Cesaire and the Black insurgent surrealists described by Kelley, people with whom I live and work every day have opened possibilities from which I have benefited. While the presence of folk arts in freedom dreams is often acknowledged, and even celebrated, their power continues to be underestimated or dismissed. But freedom dreams and the folk arts that con- tribute to them are my backdrop.

"Are you sure . . . that you want to be well?" the healer asks Velma Henry at the beginning of Toni Cade Bambara's novel The Salt Eaters (1980:3). This is a question for all of us. "Can the planet be rescued from the psychopaths?" Bambara wrote. "The persistent concern of engaged artists, of cultural workers, in this country and cer- tainly within my community, is, What role can, should, or must the [cultural worker] . . . play in producing a desirable vision of the future? And the challenge that the cultural worker faces, myself for example . . . is that the tools of my trade are colonized. The creative imagination has been colonized" (1996:139-40). I ask that we consider how the tools of our trade, our core practices, can cultivate changes in forms of re- sistance: in ourselves and in our communities (Boggs 2011).

I look to our occupational folklore: how we work with others, how we do fieldwork and write and think about (and embrace) folklore, and the inspiring models of these same practices enacted by people credentialed by their communities rather than the academy. To undertake the work that Bambara describes requires a commitment to reflexivity, a learner's stance, creole practice (and language), a sense of vision, ethical and equitable engagement, and a belief in the liberatory power and possibilities of folk arts. Here, I am trying to enact these qualities rather than writing about them.

I call myself a public interest folklorist. But what folklore isn't public?2 What folk- lore isn't, inevitably, about more than private, individual effort? Public folklore is frequently described in terms of professional job setting (outside the university) and medium of exchange (festivals, exhibitions, documentaries): external features defined by their differences from mainstream academic norms. Instead, I want to focus on what it means for our practice when we work closely with community-based artists and activists and become their allies. And I want to explore how basic elements of folklore practice can be transformative and can help us see ourselves as part of move- ments for change.3

An Origin Narrative

My framework for considering folk arts and social change is a small one: the work that we have done at the Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP) since 1987.4 This seems appropriate. After all, it was the American Folklore Society-in effect, all of you- who gave us our start back then. So this is a chance to thank you. And some kind of long-term reporting back seems in order. We were launched as a project of AFS, and charged to celebrate the centennial of the Society. (We were meant to last just three years.) AFS allowed us to submit some grant proposals (leveraging the Society's budget), incubated us for awhile, and then supported our transformation into an independent 501(c)(3).

But we got our first dollars on the AFS name. So I probably should let you know what we've done on that name and with that name. The fact is, we have learned from local people just how much "folklore" means. How cultivating folklore over time can build power and create good-incredible, even if modest and momentary, good.5 Local people have helped us to better understand ourselves and our study6: both by reminding us of the wisdom we document and witness and purvey and by helping us learn to resist some of our own biases.

Back in 1987 we started with our first major fieldwork effort, "talking to the people," taking it to the grassroots, aiming (at first) merely to create a Philadelphia Folklore Month in 1989, when folklorists would come to Philadelphia to mark the Society's centennial. This required rethinking what counted as folklore history, and who had a stake in the field. And, of course, it showed us very quickly that this fieldwork was not a project but a lifework: a way of being in community with others.

Fieldwork is one of the great foundational practices of folklore: a habit of paying attention to people's lived experiences and learning from and taking to heart what matters. This creative border-crossing reflects our collective interest in what we don't know (Hawes 2007:67-8; 2008:106). It requires us to exercise what Jonathan Lear (2006), in a work of philosophical anthropology, calls creative practical reason. It depends on what anthropologist James Scott (1998:311-39) calls metis (after the wise and clever mother of the Greek goddess Athena): improvising new ways forward by building on a body of tradition. It's bricolage. It's what I refer to above as creole prac- tice. However we recognize ourselves in these places, ethical fieldwork is deeply col- laborative and inevitably filled with gaps and divides that we feel our way across with help from others.

Close work, over time, with community-based artists and activists has made PFP their allies. This relationship allows a certain kind of perspective and practice. Close work changes us and requires that we consider the kind of world we want to make together. PFP began fieldwork conversations in 1987 that have continued and ex- panded over 25 years. Our fieldwork has been long-term, intermittent, ongoing, and authentic (Kodish 2011:34-9). The opportunity to live and work with other people in the same community for a quarter of a century (a great gift) has surely moved all of us at PFP beyond ourselves.

Over the last 25 years, local people-primarily but not only people of color-have taken the time to teach us, at PFP, how our work can support those on the front lines of social justice and cultural equity movements. We have learned to: Build times and spaces for reflection. Connect people across issues and communities. Bring a folklor- ist's eye and ear to where patterns, possibilities, and pitfalls emerge. Believe in the power of folk arts to effect social change.

The places that we find in struggles (other peoples' and our own) are complicated, of course. Sometimes our role is to play no role. But some things have become obvi- ous. We know that not taking a stand is a stand. That small everyday actions matter. That we can contribute to movements in many ways. We recognize that struggles for a just world address many kinds of bias and injustice, all interconnected, and that movements are strengthened by critical analysis. We reject invitations or opportuni- ties to speak for others, and we create contexts where people can speak for themselves. We know that we can do more together than we can ever do alone.

The kind of deeply engaged fieldwork that produced these learnings and that grounds public interest folklore is characterized by multidimensional relationships and trust. Working together over many years, and sometimes in impossible situa- tions, we come to know one another's character. We count on one another to max- imize our strengths and call us on our weaknesses. It is not too much to say that we have made one another different people.

On Recognizing Inequalities

Some of our first lessons in resistance came out of the heady joys of collaborative writing.

When we started up in 1987, fieldwork immediately revealed inequalities that were obvious, and offensive. Here was PFP-brand-new, grant-funded, beneficiary of a profoundly racist and classist system in which public and private dollars largely sup- ported elite white arts and institutions in a city, the second poorest in the United States, where 60 percent of the residents are people of color. White, educated, and privileged, I couldn't help but respond to fieldwork encounters by pushing for more equity in systems that we distrusted. We took sides.

PFP was drawn to the intersection of folk arts and social change. And we began long-term collaborative projects with individual artists and grassroots groups, invest- ing in community infrastructure to make local folk artists more visible and viable in the very neighborhoods where they live and work.

While we were embarking on our "own" larger long-term projects, we reacted to the utter lack of resources and the incredible visions, ideas, and talents of people around us. We did something that was both really easy and, as it turned out, impor- tant. We set out to help grassroots groups and artists realize their own work and dreams. We improvised a Robin-Hood-like financial redistribution approach: creat- ing a technical assistance program that aimed to change the odds at the most basic level and get resources into our cash-poor communities. Working with one person and one organization at a time, over 23 years, until the recession largely put an end to this strategy, we helped more than 350 community groups and artists raise more than $3.2 million for grassroots folk cultural work of their own design. For every dollar we raised for PFP, we helped raise at least another 50 cents for others. (Some years it was $1.50 on the dollar.) We made our time count, and demonstrated that we weren't just about us, or about building a fiefdom-of which there are so many. Often these were the first grants for folk arts projects to come to Philadelphia-area com- munities of color.

Toni Cade Bambara describes how her training as a community scribe was an early stage on her path to learning how "writing could be a way to engage in struggle, [how] it could be a weapon, a real instrument for transformation politics" (1996:219). Her words sanctioned a path. Without daring, early on, to think we were doing that much, we became community scribes.

We had no illusion that grant writing was adequate or innocent. We just knew that it was necessary. We witnessed in painful detail the terrible costs of economic (and other) divides, of racism and injustice. And time after time, we saw how people per- severed regardless. We were troubled that we were not engaged in direct or adequate social change: not really confronting the systems that diminish and thwart grassroots action-although we did (and do) our share of challenging bureaucracies and Phila- delphia's so-called "Cultural Community."7 By making this devil's bargain, we were performing a necessary service. It was simple socialism: From each according to their abilities. To each according to their needs.

We saw all of this as dues-paying, and only fair. These were small dues indeed. We changed the odds a bit. But we received far, far more than we gave. We stumbled into important lessons about the huge benefits of owning up to, and working against, our own privilege.8

Our perspectives and approaches changed. Early on, we resisted the common funders/ cultural workers' category of "excellence" (too often decontextualized, as if unequal resources don't matter). Our measures were significance, relevance, and impact.9 Even- tually, recognizing the need to support long-term investment and change in people's lives, we joined with Asian Americans United to organize for and found the Folk Arts- Cultural Treasures Charter School. (I'll say a bit more about this later.)

But helping people translate their ideas and dreams to paper pushed us to find new (better) frameworks, language, and thinking-together. Much of that learning came from writing collaboratively, and not only grant applications but position papers on topical issues, letters to editors, obituaries, essays, scripts, exhibition panels, and per- formance programs.

Writing dangerously, the writer Edwidge Danticat suggests, we become responsible to people who open our hearts. We become citizens of a country, loosely connected and bound by values. Danticat writes that when the words of others catch us, we "fasten these images to some reality in our secret imagination or we . . . learn nothing rightly" (2010:15-6). "A person's creative work is . . . a slow trek to discover, through the detours of art, those two or three images in whose presence his or her heart first opened" (18-20).10 This push to remake our work is an attempt to keep something alive. Like Roger Welsch, we become members of a tribe, not of wannabes, but of gottabes (2011).

Bambara's call for a bridge language by which revolutionaries might speak with clairvoyants stuck with me (1996:235). For many years I heard this as a call for trans- lators, or for culture-brokers-a role I resisted. For one thing, there was the specter of the Jewish middleman. I knew who and what I didn't want to be. I was motivated to counter a stereotype that I knew to be real: Jewish slumlords, booking agents and theater owners have had depressing roles in the lives of people whom I value. Distanc- ing myself from actions that did not characterize the kind of Jew I wanted to be, I focused on giving a different return on the dollar. Thankfully, there is a righteous countertradition to follow: the likes of Howard Zinn (1980, 1997); Grace Paley (1998); Marge Piercy (1999); and others.

What I eventually came to recognize was that Bambara herself was both a revolu- tionary, an actor making a just world with keen politics and analysis, and a clairvoy- ant, someone who sees in different dimensions, who looks around and back at what is powerful in folk tradition and ahead at the possibilities for freedom. Writing in the 1970s, a witness to the dismantling of what has been called the second Reconstruc- tion, she saw the need to reclaim spirituality and folk traditions as part of the work of revolution. Bambara lived in Philadelphia from 1985 until 1995 and worked at Scribe Video Center for nine of those years, deeply involved with folk artists and communities that have also worked with PFP. "She made revolution look irresistible," recalls our Philadelphia neighbor, Scribe director and media activist Louis Massiah, who makes pretty irresistible revolution himself.11 Now I hear Bambara as urging us to become different kinds of selves. And I see how recognizing and cultivating both the revolutionary and clairvoyant dimensions of our own work and that of others opens possibilities.

I turn now to three exemplars: artists and activists with whom PFP has collabo- rated for decades. All three women have been longtime board members and have developed multiple programs with PFP. Their theories and practices have shaped our own theories and practices; their work is transformative in Bambara's sense and excel- lent in Jerry Davis's.12

On Being Accountable in Community

Linda Goss tells a favorite story from her grandfather about a frog who wants to be a singer. Now, the frog is encouraged by his parents, but he happens to live in a com- munity where frogs don't get to sing. Only the birds are allowed to sing. The other animals mock him and try to undermine his efforts, but the frog persists. He eventu- ally performs, and he does a fabulous job: singing in a way no one has ever heard before, waking up the assembled company with his rousing performance. He is called a genius, thanked for giving the community something new, and invited to perform weekly. And that, the story goes, is how rhythm and blues was born (Goss 1986).

Linda's story tells listeners how to change the terms that life seems to offer, and revitalize community in the process. It's a "coming-into-voice" story that she has enacted in her own life.

Linda Goss has been "waking up the people" for more than 50 years. Born into a storytelling family in Alcoa, Tennessee, a segregated factory town in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, she learned oral histories, folktales, and songs from family members and has continued to document, reflect on, and develop that legacy. This is deeply necessary work. She tells stories about how we will survive as a people.

When she went to Howard University in the 1960s, Linda brought with her those family folk traditions that so many first-generation scholars are forced to leave behind. She insistently infused traditional storytelling style and content into her studies of drama and into her work in the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements. Her use of stories and her valuing of vernacular culture were viewed as radical, unorthodox, and avant-garde. People didn't know what to do with her. But she persisted.13

Bernice Johnson Reagon invited her to be a featured storyteller at the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife in 1975. Linda needed to gather a crowd for her per- formance, and Reagon told her to use her voice. In what would become her signature style (partly based on her memory of a man from her hometown), she cried out: "Well, oh well, well! It's storytelling time!" Then she got some bells and began ringing them in conjunction with the cry. When she told her grandfather what she was doing, she recalls: "That's when he brought out this old bugle. This old bugle he had. I'd never seen it before. And he told me that was his job on the plantation. He had worked in this big plantation in Alabama" Linda's grandfather told her: "I had to wake up the people to get them there to start working." He said, "And that's what you're doing. You're waking up the people." "So he gave me the bugle. And that was so odd. Because before that I did not know that's what he did" (Goss 2005).

In the 1970s, when the storytelling movement was beginning, Linda addressed racism and exclusion by organizing other African American storytellers. With Moth- er Mary Carter, she founded in 1982 the National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference and the National Association of Black Storytellers:

It was not to make stars out of people. It was to bring out the people, to bring out the stories from the community, because our children weren't hearing them. Sev- eral generations have lost stories. This is a freedom issue because people have to have a sense of who they are. We have always had to fight for the right to be heard, for the right to tell our stories, and for respect for the oral tradition. There was (and is) a need for Black storytellers to get our stories out, for people to realize that there were a lot of storytellers out there. We had a democratic, inclusive mission from the start: we were the first festival to travel to different places to bring out stories from the community. It wasn't just for professional storytellers. It was also for ordinary people.14

Linda's work in Philadelphia, as well as nationally, has connected ordinary people caught in oppressive situations-people who don't see themselves as storytellers or performers-to African American traditions of survival, resistance, and struggle. Working in community settings, she says: "I use my storytelling to challenge people in power, to advocate for people, and to speak out on issues. I may address large issues like racism, homophobia, anti-immigrant hysteria, or repression, or I may address ways in which large issues impact ordinary people in their everyday lives. But what storytelling does that no other art form does is that it comes alive and responds to people's situations."15

Linda has proceeded with a large and inclusive vision. She has launched the careers of hundreds of African American storytellers, elevated and advanced a tradition she loves, and imagined and built a movement that now includes thousands. She has built a diverse community of people who embrace vernacular practices as, she says, "a tool for social change."

The notion of community is often used loosely. What I mean by community is a self- determining assemblage of people accountable to one another, organized by common visions, committed to cultivating vital and sustainable place. Grace Lee Boggs says that rebuilding intentional community is central to the work before us (2011). Herbert Reid and Betsy Taylor talk about community in terms of the social base of livability: what they call healthy body-place-commons (2010:10-2). James Scott describes state-resist- ing maroon communities constituted by people's political choices (2009). Bambara declares the obligation "to constantly remove any kind of camouflage or any kind of barrier that exists between me and the community that names me" (1996:216).

Linda's work and the public interest folklore I am describing place us as members of just such communities, addressing barriers, working together to decolonize our imaginations and cultivate and detoxify the ground and soil of culture.

Freedom Dreams

A second example from Philadelphia.

When we met in the 1990s, Yvette Smalls (1959-2012) needed a fiscal sponsor for her film, Hair Stories (1998). It was easy to say yes.

Yvette was a master braider, hair sculptor, and filmmaker.16 She advanced the move- ment of African American women who rejected definitions of "bad" and "good" hair based on European standards.

She grew up in West Philadelphia and began braiding in the 1960s. She found teachers, and figured things out for herself when teachers weren't available.

Studying hair care at Harcum College was a challenge because they didn't really know how to care for Black people's hair. She became a researcher, and her home salon became a museum, filled with books and artifacts gathered from across the diaspora. She was an active member of the National Braider's Guild and kept pushing the group forward. She fought discrimination in licensing requirements for home braiding salons. She said: "At that point, braiders weren't really celebrated. We didn't have shops. The barbers hated us because that meant they couldn't cut hair. The hot comb hair people hated us because they couldn't press and curl. The wig industry hated us. We weren't really popular."

She pushed into new frontiers, deciding that there should be a Locks Conference to affirm dreadlocks, "the original hairstyle" She turned to film to spread her message more widely and to younger people.

In all of this, Yvette was motivated by a singular vision:

I was so fixed on making sure that women felt good about themselves, having them feel empowered. One image that stays in my mind is of this little girl when we were in school. I see some girls like this now. Little dark girls who have hair that's either short or broken or plastered to their head. And that messes with their self-esteem. And it's still prevalent today. When their hair is done, they act differently. . . . I re- member growing up short, dark, left-handed. I had a lot of things going against me. In my home, I didn't feel that way. I was loved and felt affirmed by my parents and my aunts. My mother told me, "Beauty is as beauty does." She was serious, because that's how she was. That's how we were raised. But the outside world was cruel and mean to dark children. So that is my mission-that nobody has to feel bad about themselves, whether they are light, dark, green, purple, blue. You're okay however you are. That is a mission God has me on.

Her mother's saying inoculated Yvette against the negative self-image and self-hate she saw in others and set her on a journey of self-discovery. She went on to school herself in the intricate and varied hair braiding, wrapping, coiling, and weaving tra- ditions used among her extended family across the American South and internation- ally across the African Diaspora, understanding it all as an important form of creative expression: freedom dreaming.

She was a sculptor-approaching each person's hair as the ultimate wearable art. She was also a guide on other people's quests of self-discovery. She said:

Spirit intuitively moves within me to create [and] sculpt hairstyles. . . . I am obsessed with promoting the cultural, historical, and technical knowledge of African hair. I weave tradition, creativity, and love into my tapestry of natural hairstyles; espe- cially since generations of Black women have been taught to wage war on their coil. I give praise to those hair braiders who toiled, created, invented and experimented with techniques . . . to beautify the physical presence and soothe the spiritual sense of the African woman. I employ African techniques with American inventiveness. My hairstyles are always on the edge of avant-garde with an acknowledgement of the roots of my culture. In my sanctuary we have a spiritual experience that's difficult to explain; you come in looking one way and you leave another way.

Yvette created extraordinarily striking visions-making us the people we imagined we might be, or become. Her gifts in this re-visioning went beyond the "dos" she created. It was how she was with us. She made us all see ourselves differently. And we lived into the beautiful selves she saw we were. That was enacting her mission.

In his book Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, Robin D. G. Kelley writes that "[t]he most radical ideas often grow out of a concrete intellectual engage- ment with the problems of aggrieved populations confronting systems of oppression" (2002:9). "The most radical art . . . works to take us to another place, envision a dif- ferent way of seeing, perhaps a different way of feeling" (11). "Freedom and love may be the most revolutionary ideas available to us, and yet as intellectuals we have failed miserably to grapple with their political and analytical importance" (12). Black activ- ists, artists, and intellectuals who imagine worlds worth struggling for open up ways to "enable communities to envision what's possible with collective action, personal self-transformation, and will" (7). The work is about becoming the kind of people we want to be, with others.17

What we all gained from Yvette was a way of living into a freedom dream. It became ours. And it is irresistible.

On Movement Action for Justice

Working at the intersection of folk arts and social change, sometimes we come at it from the art side, surfacing the social change dimensions. Sometimes we come at it from the social change side, surfacing the expressive dimensions, as in this third example.

I turn to Ellen Somekawa and Asian Americans United to consider how survivors of violence in our own city took action against racism and deliberate indifference.18 In 1985 a small group of activists founded Asian Americans United (AAU) to re- spond to anti-Asian violence, substandard housing, and inadequate education (Some- kawa 1995). From the start, AAU has mobilized to push institutions to address com- munity needs, while also creating their own community-based organizations and practices. At the same time AAU saw that real change would require continually nurturing and training new generations of Asian Americans committed to working for social justice. They have been a huge force for justice in Philadelphia over the last 27 years. Ellen Somekawa became AAU's Director in 1996. A longtime activist, Ellen has been part of the Asian American movement struggle and other movements for social change for nearly 40 years.

Over the years, PFP has worked with Ellen and AAU on folk arts education and on documentaries and children's books about Chinese and Cambodian artists who use folk arts for cultural maintenance. We have supported the 17-year-old Mid-Au- tumn Festival, an annual celebration that AAU created in our Chinatown to reclaim time and space and affirm and build community.

This year we worked with Ellen in a Folk Arts and Social Change residency: a pro- gram we run in which community members propose projects that they would like to undertake in partnership with PFP. Residents receive PFP staff help, technical assis- tance, and modest stipends. PFP bears the costs of mounting in our gallery an exhibi- tion that residents co-curate. We support residents in conceptualizing and planning the show through a highly participatory, collaborative process.

Ellen describes why AAU wanted to do a project with us:

On December 3, 2009, over two dozen Asian immigrant students were attacked throughout the day, both inside and outside of South Philadelphia High School. . . . The response of the school administration, the School District and the City of Philadelphia was to minimize and mischaracterize the attacks. Not a single official of the School District or City came forward to denounce what were clearly bias attacks on Asian immigrant students. . . . As egregious as the attacks were, what infuriated the students and their allies [even more] was the school's denial of the severity and nature of the problem. School District officials minimized the incident, inflamed racial hostility by accusing Asian students of starting the fights, accused Asian student victims of being gang members, attributed the tension to the privi- leging of Asian English language learners, and defended the school administration's handling of the attacks.

So the students did the unexpected. They boycotted. For 8 days, the students' boycott engaged an average of 50 and upwards of 70 students in a unified, con- certed boycott that captured local, national, and international news. In the year and a half [after] the boycott, student and adult activists continued to press the issue. And a year after the boycott ended, they won a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in which the [School] District not only submitted to federal and state monitoring of its handling of bias violence, but also for the first time admitted that they mis- handled the situation.

The December 3rd attacks and boycott drew such media . . . attention, that the dysfunction of South Philadelphia High became a cause celebre. Foundations were besieged by requests for funding to address the problems at [South Philly High], non-profits raced to claim contracts and start new programs in the school. [A]rticles were written, forums held, plays performed, videos produced. It [became] a terrible irony that the students and adult allies who . . . [worked] tirelessly for over two years on this issue. . . . [were] busy focusing on [their] campaign while others . . . swarmed around to gain funding or to tell [their] story.19

The exhibition that AAU created with PFP, We Cannot Keep Silent, goes beyond the headlines about this groundbreaking civil rights case to document a commu- nity's fight against bias violence. The story is told from the perspective of the people involved, using documentary photographs, evidences, and interviews that they chose. The process offered an opportunity for participants to reflect on their experiences- something for which activists rarely have time. And it offered a chance to advance their organizing by sharing their own version of events in a compelling public exhi- bition. In the show, participants' "disaster narratives" challenge the dominant dis- course: urban legends that blamed the victims, "sanitizi[ed] the issue of the. . . . boycott, and took racism and institutional accountability (or lack of it) out of the picture."20 Their transformation narratives detail how participants grew and will never be the same, and describe the love, and the loving community, that developed in the crucible of struggle. Their collective message is that bias violence in our schools (and society) has a long history. That it is never acceptable. That we are all account- able. That we have the power (and obligation) to make change.

We Cannot Keep Silent opens our eyes and our hearts and our minds. It directs our attention to the tradition of organizing that makes change possible. In a small way, We Cannot Keep Silent, like the social justice movement it documents and advances,21 creates a space for people to be accountable to one another and to a vision of com- munity where, as Ellen says, "we grow in compassion and strength through struggling for justice for all."22

In 2005, PFP and AAU engaged in a massive organizing effort to co-found the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS), the first public institution of any kind in our city's Chinatown, which has been fighting draconian development schemes for more than 50 years. It is the last remaining community of color in our city's center. FACTS is where the South Philadelphia High School students came to plan and strategize while they were boycotting their own school. We nurture a sense of community there. PFP and AAU staff, teachers, and artists at our K-8 school are working out what we expect children to know and be able to do in folk arts and social change by the time they leave us after nine years. Our aim is to help young people know who they are, care about (and for) themselves and others, be able to critically analyze and build on folk arts and community experiences, and become actors in making a more just world. This is the same aim we have for ourselves and our programs at PFP.23

Vernacular Indicators

Dorry Noyes has described folklore work as humble theory (2008); I am trying to describe humble practice. At FACTS, following Bambara, we have shifted our atten- tion from the meaning to the power of a word. We have adapted Dell Hymes's mod- el: recognize, report, repeat, perform (1981:82-4).

Close work with allies over many years has broadened whom I recognize as teach- ers and peers and what I recognize as story, beauty, justice, or bias.24 As folklorists have chronicled, recognition begins at first encounters, margins, and crossroads. In activists' stories, I have come to value how, at such critical junctures, people see and defeat the tyrannies of (unjust) divides.

The stories that people report and repeat-stories told about one another and with one another-hold meaningful folk history and analysis. Life stories, held and shared and debated among a community, are an important way in which people's character becomes known. And they measure how we grow, build our own characters, and become different selves, opening ourselves to others in shared effort and struggle.

Folk wisdom names the next stage: Perform. Be the change you want to make. Walk the walk. "Beauty is as beauty does" Show what kind of people we are. Performances require us to do our best, to use our own voices in ways that embody our learnings and show where we stand and with whom. Our reputations measure how our per- formances are collectively experienced, known, and remembered.25

Transformation narratives, where people describe how they were changed by par- ticipation in freedom struggle,26 go beyond what Hymes calls a "breakthrough into performance" (1981:17). They track the development of a new consciousness of agen- cy, power, and place in a collectivity as people create (and feel) power and change the terms of genre, voice, history, and struggle-and who we feel ourselves to be.27

Folk arts are a way for people to take their own life experiences seriously: "really," as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist Charles Cobb says, "a set of challenges by ourselves, and our communities, to ourselves" (Moses and Cobb 2001:125).

The 50th anniversary of SNCC occasioned an outpouring of books, gatherings, and testimonies. It's not surprising that people say they are still on the road, walking toward what looked like freedom; they have "kept their hands on the freedom plow" (Holsaert et al. 2010:592). Judy Richardson said: "Working with SNCC . . . made me understand that if you do nothing, nothing changes. And it connected me to an en- during circle of friends that sustains me to this day" (Holsaert et al. 2010:365).

I have invoked particular individuals at some length in order to situate these valued friends in the communities they have helped to create, and consider their formative importance to our common work. They help me explore my main concern, which is how we become the kind of people we need to be in these times.

The task that activist and sage Grace Lee Boggs sets out in her remarkable book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century (2011), is to consider what it means to be fully human and humane, and to cultivate "awareness, values, methods and relationships" that challenge the fundamentally dehumanizing structures around us (Kurashige 2011:21). Boggs advances a notion of change based on quantum physics: where change happens not only through build- ing mass movements but by transforming people's sense of humanity, by creating new forms of resistance, new selves and communities. Having witnessed and participated in formative social justice action for nearly a century, Boggs observes that increasing numbers of people are doing just this work at the grassroots.28 What role will folklor- ists take in advancing such transformations?


I have outlined some aspects of the occupational folklore of our field-or at least what it feels like from my small piece of it. This was one of Archie Green's assignments to me, and in carrying it out, I resist our tendency to treat "subfields" as somehow ir- relevant to primary disciplinary concerns. I take public interest folklore and laborlore as central to our understanding of our core work practices. I take folk arts education as a way we describe and share what we value about our own lifelong learnings, es- pecially what we learn from people "in the field," consultants, sources, allies, friends. (Thank goodness we don't call them "informants" anymore.) Scholars, activists, and artists of color are particularly relevant and helpful, offering insights of central im- portance to configuring a humane discipline.29 I see this as a way of actively rewriting the history of the field so that future generations (a more diverse company than we are now) will see themselves as being offered real possibilities and important tools for shaping the just world in which we want to live.

And this returns us to PFP. When we got started, it was Roger Abrahams's idea (as I recall) that I should write a revisionist history of the field. It has taken twenty-five years, and the outline I offer is not the book he may have envisioned but rather the community that has embraced PFP and with whom we share an ever-clearer vision of the value of cultivating folk arts and social change.

At PFP's 25th birthday celebration this past June, Ellen Somekawa told the crowd: "Being Asian in America is a pretty constant tussle with this idea that 'If you're Asian, you're foreign. You don't really belong here.' When people ask, 'Where are you from?' it feels like code for 'You aren't really from here. You are other.'" She spoke of a dif- ferent way to understand who we are:

PFP is about creating a Philadelphia where "Where are you from?" means "Who are your people?" "What is your grounding?" "Who is a source of wisdom?" "What is it that nourishes your strength and pride and love of justice?" . . . Many of us have been torn from our homelands or had our languages and cultures ripped from us-whether in our generation or generations past. But PFP works so that more and more of us can say, "Here and now, I am from a community that I am helping to build. I am from a place where we have the power to define our own sense of ourselves, where we grow in compassion and strength through struggling for jus- tice for all communities."30

Ellen's testimony names our aspirations: what we may become. It requires that we keep asking how we can strengthen traditions-our own and others'-that effec- tively link folklore to ongoing community struggles, and to justice, love, and freedom. We have come to this place because the American Folklore Society gave us our start, and our charge. It set us on a path that continues to enlarge our sense of who "we" are, and that gives us hope and courage as we work together to imagine the practice and analysis that we know we need.


I am grateful to Diane Goldstein, who invited me to speak at the October 2012 American Folklore Soci- ety meeting. I want to thank the amazing current staff of the Philadelphia Folklore Project-Selina Morales, T. C. Owens, and Toni Shapiro-Phim-with whom I am so lucky to work, and to PFP's staff in the early years-especially Maggie Kreusi, Jerrilyn McGregory, Dorry Noyes, and Bill Westerman, whose initial work built a strong foundation and who have continued to influence what we do in many ways. Special thanks to Jane Barry, Bob Cantwell, Lorene Cary, Diane Goldstein, Louis Massiah, Ellen Some- kawa, and Kay Turner for helpful readings and encouragement. Diane asked me to speak about minor- ity traditions and activism, which, for me, involves describing the work (and pleasure) of being in solidar- ity and coalition with people I admire and respect. I am grateful to Linda Goss, Ellen Somekawa and Asian Americans United, and the family of Yvette Smalls for allowing me to draw on their inspiring work, and to the many hundreds of artists, activists, and community members who have shared and shaped the path I try to describe.


1. This essay is a slightly altered version of a plenary talk presented to the American Folklore Society, New Orleans, October 2012.

2. For more on public folklore, see Kodish (2012a).

3. Also see Peterson (2011); and Westerman (2006).

4. When the Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP) ( was founded, we were unusual in several ways. We had some connections to the growing public folklore movement, through long association with Archie Green (1917-2009), widely recognized as one of the great forces in public folklore and social accountability. See Cantwell (2001); and Green (2001). And I had worked as a field- worker in early state public folklore projects nurtured by Bess Lomax Hawes (1921-2009), who, as the Director of Folk Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts, was aiming to place a folklorist in every US state arts agency. But this public folklore work centered on building national and governmental sup- port for folk culture (Hawes 2008). PFP was one of a handful of brand new independent non-profit folklife agencies: a new development in the field. While PFP has remained profoundly local and peripheral, we were working in, beholden to, and building on an emerging tradition of public folklore.

5. For examples, consider the ODUNDE festival, which Lois Fernandez sees as representing urban vernacular folk arts, and all that it has accomplished in creating a ground for culture over 37 years (http://; AAU, where people like Ellen Somekawa, who once rejected folk arts as regres- sive, came to create the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) (; Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble, where Dorothy Wilkie has "carried the torch for culture" for more than four decades (

6. See SNCC analysis and descriptions of "local people" by Payne (1995:xiv, 101); and Moses and Cobb (2001:20-21, 56).

7. Sometimes I think that if I could accomplish just one thing, it would be to change how privileged people talk one word and phrase at a time, in this case, getting them to say "cultural communities"-plural.

8. Working against subordination and with a commitment to radical pluralism, we became partisan, were taught to be principled. These terms come from Archie Green's description of the work of public folklore, sharpened by critical race pedagogy (Kodish 2012a).

9. We grew in our capacity to recognize what shocked Raymond Williams, the barbarous disparity of scale (1975:105), the tangible marks of greed and injustice in the lives of stellar artists working double shifts as home health care workers-the invisible poor, sacrificed generations. The issues became clearer, if not the strategies to address them. What would artists be able to contribute were they afforded health care, housing, a living wage, meaningful work? What would happen if we were able to offer apprentice- ships in folk arts that lasted seven years and resulted in jobs? Our small size and scale require that we approach these questions in coalition.

10. She is quoting Emerson and Camus here.

11. Louis Massiah, personal communication, October 20, 2012. See Scribe Video Center (http://www Massiah is quoted by Toni Morrison in Bambara (1996:xi).

12. For descriptions of hallmarks of excellent work, see Davis (1989); Freeman (2006); Gardner (2010); and Kodish (2012a:582-6).

13. Linda is proud to have been encouraged by folklorists Kathryn Morgan, Jerry Davis, Beverly Rob- inson, and Gladys-Marie Fry, legendary Black Arts Movement scholar Stephen Henderson, and poet Sonia Sanchez, among others. (Regrettably, she was discouraged in her attempt to enroll in a graduate program in folklore). See her important collections (Goss and Barnes 1989; Goss and Goss 1995).

14. Manuscript: PFP technical assistance files, Linda Goss, September 2012.

15. Ibid.

16. The section on Yvette draws from interviews in the Philadelphia Folklore Project archive, a website entry, articles in our magazine, technical assistance materials, and texts developed, upon her passing, for her homegoing ceremony, a traditional African American community celebration of her life, in June 2012 (Smalls 2012a, 2012b; PFP Folklife Archive).

17. Yvette taught us not to be ashamed of freedom and love. When we ask teaching artists what they most want their students to learn about folk arts, they also name motivating values: compassion, patience, persistence, interdependence, respect. They talk about the kind of people they want their students to be. It is common for folk artists to want to be known by the quality of their students' character. See Samten (2011).

18. This talk was delivered in New Orleans, seven years after the storm, where it is clearly evident that Katrina is not over. Katrina survivors talked about the racism and deliberate indifference of authorities, and their perspectives inform my choice of this third example. As well, note that in their important work responding to the hurricanes Rita and Katrina, folklorists Pat Jasper and Carl Lindahl (2007) have shown that hurricane survivors talking with one another produce better records of folklore and fact than we do, that the experience is healing, and that such work offers theoretical insights (Lindahl 2012).

19. Ellen Somekawa, "AAU application for a Folk Arts and Social Change residency," June 2011. PFP files.

20. AAU application, PFP files.

21. Scott Kurashige's description of AAU's organizing strategy in the early 1990s parallels the strategies of We Cannot Keep Silent. Naming a tradition of social justice work, it validated people's experiences and the concerns/problems of Asian American communities, identified inconsistency and bias in public/ formal accounts, built trust within the community and legitimacy as collective speakers raised awareness of anti-Asian bias and the problems of communities, clarified what counts as justice, extended the habit and practice of organizing and resistance into another domain, and supported people's growth as a force and a base. See Kurashige (2000).

22. The exhibition is filled with personal narratives that are recognizable within the community and largely invisible outside it. Also see Ellen Somekawa's testimony in the exhibition.

23. Working at FACTS with activists, artists, and educators, we reject the "heroes and holidays" mod- el of multiculturalism, where folklore is part of a "tolerance" approach: a politics where the histories, cultures, and experiences of diverse peoples are "added" as discrete or unrelated parts. Or worse: where folk traditions are exoticized, decontextualized, and safely compartmentalized. We draw on approaches from anti-racist education and critical pedagogy-all forms of education for liberation-to "collectively envision just and fair schools, communities and the larger society," and "do the necessary work to make those visions come true." Shaping critical folk arts education practice requires us to challenge unfairness, bias, injustice, and prejudice (including our own); to engage the school community in asking "why things are the way they are, in terms of power relationships," to grapple with "the history and underlying causes of racism" and inequality, and to support one another in becoming actors transforming schools into places where justice is possible (Lee, Menkart, and Okazawa-Rey 2008:ix; Lee 2001). For more on FACTS, see Culture Tools (, a website created by AAU and PFP about the effort, as well as Kodish (2012b); Kodish and Wei (2001, 2006); and Kodish and Westerman (1998).

24. In adapting Dell Hymes's model of breakthrough into performance, I change "interpret" to "rec- ognize" and add two additional dimensions in the development of competencies and power: transform and regenerate. Transform marks the moment when performance moves to another level, creating change. Regenerate marks engagement in a collective process.

25. This has come back to us in an unsettling way as PFP's archives have become resources for local people, families, and national news media when artists pass.

26. The territories of origin narratives, stories of change, and transformation narratives parallel the questions that Carl Lindahl and Pat Jasper asked/taught in their Surviving Rita and Katrina project. See Lindahl (2012).

27. See Reagon (1991:143-4) for a paradigmatic transformation narrative. Reagon came into the voice and power that she has now-she came into herself, she became the who she is now-in the Movement in Albany, Georgia, in 1961. She describes being raised in a tradition of African American congrega- tional singing. And in Albany, in the middle of formative movement action, people said, as they often had before, "Bernice, give us a song." She began the song that goes: "Over my head, I see trouble in the air." She looked around at beloved people courageously gathered in the face of certain danger, standing up for freedom. At that moment, she says, she realized what the tradition offered. She changed "trouble" to "freedom," singing: "Over my head, I see freedom in the air." And she says that when she sang, she had never sounded that way before-because she had never been that person before. People all sounded dif- ferent because they were different. They were claiming and naming who they had become: people turn- ing trouble into freedom. Also see Reagon (1990, 2001); and Kodish (2011).

28. Also see Esteva and Prakash (1998).

29. For example, we can refuse to be indifferent to the sufferings of others by resisting the perpetuation of registers, regimes, or politics that exclude or subordinate certain others as peers and co-workers. Also see Cantwell (2001); Davis ([1992] 2007, 1996); Long (1991); and McDowell and Smith (2004). N'Diaye and Bibby (1991); Roberts (2000); and Shapiro, Hooks, and Reagon (1976).

30. Ellen Somekawa, remarks, PFP's 25th Birthday Bash, June 2, 2012.


References Cited

Bambara, Toni Cade. 1980. The Salt Eaters. New York: Vintage Books.

_____. 1996. Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions, ed. with a preface by Toni Morrison. New York: Pan- theon.

Boggs, Grace Lee. 2011. The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Cen- tury. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Brodkey, Linda. 1996. Writing Permitted in Designated Areas Only. Minneapolis: University of Minne- sota Press.

Cantwell, Robert. 2001. Foreword: In Good Spirits. In Torching the Fink Books and Other Essays on Ver- nacular Culture, by Archie Green, pp. vii-xxvii. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Danticat, Edwidge. 2010. Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Davis, Gerald L. 1989. Foreword: An Appreciation. In The Arabbers of Baltimore, by Roland Freeman, pp. vii-viii. Centreville, MD: Tidewater Publications.

_____. [1992] 2007. "So Correct for the Photograph": "Fixing" the Ineffable, Ineluctable African American. In Public Folklore, ed. Robert Baron and Nicholas R. Spitzer, pp. 105-18. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

_____. 1996. "Somewhere over the Rainbow . . .": Judy Garland in Neverland. Journal of American Folk- lore 109(432):115-28.

Esteva, Gustavo, and Madhu Suri Prakash. 1998. Grassroots Post-Modernism: Remaking the Soil of Cultures. London: Zed Books.

Freeman, Roland L. 2006. A Tribute to Worth Long. Still on the Case: A Pioneer's Continuing Commitment. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and The Group for Cultural Documentation.

Gardner, Howard, ed. 2010. GoodWork: Theory and Practice (Excellence, Ethics, Engagement). GoodWork Project.

Goss, Linda. 1986. The Frog Who Wanted to Be a Singer, illustrated by Cynthia Jabar. New York: Orchard Books.

_____. 2005. Waking Up the People. Works in Progress: Magazine of the Philadelphia Folklore Project 18(1):10-1, 14-5, 21-3.

Goss, Linda, and Marion Barnes. 1989. Talk That Talk: An Anthology of African-American Storytelling. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Goss, Linda, and Clay Goss. 1995. Jump Up and Say: A Collection of Black Storytelling. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Green, Archie. 2001. Torching the Fink Books and Other Essays on Vernacular Culture. Chapel Hill: Uni- versity of North Carolina Press.

Hair Stories. 1998. Dir. Yvette Smalls. Philadelphia: Yvette Smalls. DVD, 40 min.

Hawes, Bess Lomax. 2007. Happy Birthday, Dear American Folklore Society: Reflections on the Work and Mission of Folklorists. In Public Folklore, ed. Robert Baron and Nicholas R. Spitzer, pp. 65-73. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

_____. 2008. Sing It Pretty: A Memoir. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Holsaert, Faith S., Martha Prescod, Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, and Dorothy M. Zellner, eds. 2010. Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Hymes, Dell. 1981. "In vain I tried to tell you": Essays in Native American Ethnopoetics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Jasper, Pat, and Carl Lindahl, eds. 2007. Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston. Special issue. Callaloo 29(4):1504-48.

Kelley, Robin D. G. 2002. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Boston: Beacon Press.

Kodish, Debora. 2011. Envisioning Folklore Activism. Journal of American Folklore 124(491):31-60.

_____. 2012a. Imagining Public Folklore. In A Companion to Folklore, ed. Regina Bendix and Galit Hasan-Rokem, pp. 579-97. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

_____. 2012b. Teaching Folk Arts and Cultural Heritage in Philadelphia: Challenges and Possibilities. Paper presented at the 2nd International Conference, China-US Forum on Intangible Cultural Heri- tage, Nashville, TN, May 1.

Kodish, Debora, and Deborah Wei. 2001. Sites Of Struggle: Bringing Folklore And Social Change into the Classroom. Works in Progress: Magazine of the Philadelphia Folklore Project 14(1-2):4-9. http://

_____. 2006. What Do We Mean by Art? Imagining Equity in Arts Education. Public School Notebook.

Kodish, Debora, and William Westerman. [1998] 2008. Pitfalls and Possibilities: Presenting Folk Arts in the Schools. Reprinted in Enid Lee, Deborah Menkart, and Margo Okazawa-Rey, ed. Beyond Heroes and Holidays, pp. 396-400. Washing- ton, DC: Teaching for Change.

Kurashige, Scott. 2000. Pan-Ethnicity and Community Organizing: Asian Americans United's Campaign against Anti-Asian Violence. Journal of Asian American Studies 3(2):163-90.

_____. 2011. Introduction to The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, by Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige, pp. 1-27. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lear, Jonathan. 2006. Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation. Cambridge: Harvard Uni- versity Press.

Lee, Enid. [1998] 2008. Looking Through an Anti-Racist Lens. In Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practi- cal Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development, ed. Enid Lee, Deborah Menkart, and Margo Okazawa-Rey, pp. 3-17. Washington, DC: Teaching for Change.

_____. 2001. Equity and Literacy: The Challenge of the Decade. In Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Prac- tical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development, ed. Enid Lee, Deborah Menkart, and Margo Okazawa-Rey, pp. 171-7. Washington, DC: Teaching for Change.

Lee, Enid, Deborah Menkart, and Margo Okazawa-Rey, eds. [1998] 2008. Beyond Heroes and Holidays. A Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development. Washington, DC: Teaching for Change.

Lindahl, Carl. 2012. Legends of Hurricane Katrina: The Right to Be Wrong, Survivor-to-Survivor Story- telling, and Healing. Journal of American Folklore 125(496):139-76.

Long, Worth. 1991. Cultural Organizing and Participatory Research. In The Arts of Black Folk, ed. Diana Baird N'Diaye and Deirdre L. Bibby, pp. 28-35. New York: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Matsuda, Mari. 1996. Where Is Your Body?: And Other Essays on Race, Gender, and the Law. Boston: Beacon Press.

McDowell, John, and Moira Smith, eds. 2004. Advocacy Issues in Folklore. Special double issue, Journal of Folklore Research 41(2-3):103-292.

Moses, Robert, and Charles E. Cobb, Jr. 2001. Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Al- gebra Project. Boston: Beacon Press.

N'Diaye, Diana Baird, and Deirdre L. Bibby, eds. 1991. The Arts of Black Folk. New York: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Noyes, Dorothy. 2008. Humble Theory. In "Grand Theory," ed. Lee Haring. Special issue, Journal of Folk- lore Research 45(1):37-43.

Paley, Grace. 1998. Just As I Thought. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Payne, Charles M. 1995. I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Free- dom Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Peterson, Betsy. 2011. Folk and Traditional Arts and Social Change. A Working Guide to the Landscape of Arts for Change. Animating Democracy.

Piercy, Marge. 1999. The Art of Blessing the Day. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. 1990. Foreword: Nurturing Resistance. In Reimagining America: The Arts of Social Change, ed. Mark O'Brien and Craig Little, pp. 1-8. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.

_____. 1991. Interview with Bernice Reagon. In The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader, ed. Clayborne Carson et al., pp. 143-5. New York: Penguin.

_____. 2001. If You Don't Go, Don't Hinder Me: The African American Sacred Song Tradition. Abraham Lincoln Lecture Series. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Reid, Herbert, and Betsy Taylor. 2010. Recovering the Commons: Democracy, Place, and Global Justice. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Roberts, John. 2000. African-American Folklore in a Discourse of Folkness. In "Through African-Centered Prisms," ed. Barbara L. Hampton. Special issue, New York Folklore 18(1-4):73-89.

Salaam, Kalamu Ya. 2008. Searching for the Mother Tongue: An Interview with Toni Cade Bambara. In Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, ed. Linda Janet Holmes and Cheryl A. Wall, pp. 58-69. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Samten, Losang. 2011. Ancient Wisdom in Modern Times: Buddhism in the 21st Century. Philadelphia: Losang Samten.

Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

_____. 2009. The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland South Asia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Shapiro, Linn, Rosie Lee Hooks, and Bernice Johnson Reagon, eds. 1976. Black People and Their Culture: Selected Writings from the African Diaspora. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

Smalls, Yvette. 2012a. Beauty Is As Beauty Does: Interview by Caroliese Frink-Reed. Works in Progress: Magazine of the Philadelphia Folklore Project 25(1-2):8-11, 29. resources/pubs/wip.php.

_____. 2012b. Biographical entry. Philadelphia Folklore Project website. folkarts/artists/smalls_y/.

Somekawa, Ellen. 1995. On the Edge: Southeast Asians in Philadelphia and the Struggle for Space. In ReViewing Asian America: Locating Diversity, ed. Wendy L. Ng, Soo-Young Chin, James S. Moy, and Gary Y. Okihiro, pp. 33-47. Pullman: Washington State University Press.

Welsch, Roger. 2011. Confessions of a Wannabe: When the Prime Directive Misfires. Journal of American Folklore 124(491):19-30.

Westerman, William. 2006. Wild Grasses and New Arks: Transformative Potential in Applied and Public Folklore. Journal of American Folklore 119(471):110-28.

Williams, Patricia. 1995. The Rooster's Egg: On the Persistence of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Williams, Raymond. 1975. The Country and the City. New York: Oxford University Press.

Zinn, Howard. 1980. A People's History of the United States. New York: Harper Perennial.

_____ . 1997. The Howard Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy. New York: Seven Stories Press.

[Author Affiliation]

Debora Kodish is the Founding Director of the Philadelphia Folklore Project

Debora Kodish is founding director of the Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP), where she has co-directed five documentaries, edited PFP's books and magazines, and de- veloped the agency's focus on folk arts and social change. Before beginning the PFP in 1987, Kodish taught folklore in universities and worked in some of the country's early public folklife programs, doing field research in Oregon and Maine in the 1970s. She received her PhD in Folklore from the University of Texas in 1981. Her recent publications deal with the theory and practice of public interest folklore.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.