Ethnic Heritage Lives Anew Oral Tradition Passes Stories to New Generation
Taylor, Alliniece, The Florida Times Union
JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- "The days and nights turned into" -- and
the storyteller paused, waiting for the Beaches Episcopal School
students to finish the line.
"Weeks!" they answered in unison.
While stomping her sandaled feet, swinging her arms to Zulu
songs and acting out each character in an African story, Valerie
Tutson recently helped the children celebrate Black History
Month and learn what it represents.
After telling a Liberian folk tale, Tutson used its moral to
show the significance of this month.
"No one is ever dead unless he or she is forgotten," Tutson
explained. "In celebration of Black History Month, we are
telling the stories of people who may not be living with us."
What spurred the birth of Black History Month more than a
decade ago was the chance to tell stories of African-Americans
who might not have been recognized during their lifetime. Some
area schools have renamed it Brotherhood Month to host
multi-cultural events, and many have adopted teaching diversity
Tutson, a professional storyteller from Providence, R.I., has
been teaching black history through the arts year round for
"I tell these stories all 12 months, not just the 28 days of
Black History Month," Tutson said.
Exposing children to different cultures throughout the year
helps build an understanding among the students and teaches them
what to expect in the future, according to educators in Beaches
"I think it heightens the students' sensitivity toward others,"
said fifth-grade teacher Terrye Mosley at Alimacani Elementary
School. "We no longer live in an insular environment. They have
to live in a world where they have to be with others who are not
"We are a diverse population," said Mike Parrish, principal at
Ocean Palms Elementary. "Our strength is our diversity."
Recipes ranging from Serbian cookies to Chinese prawn crackers
decorate the walls at Alimacani, which prepares students for a
Brotherhood feast, for which they bring in international dishes
and dress like natives of various countries.
Mosley also put together an AfricanAmerican fact sheet students
for which students must research the answers. Questions include:
"Who was the first person to perform a successful heart
operation?" (Answer: Charles Drew, an African-American surgeon.)
Mosley said the school works to infuse multi-cultural events
throughout the year, including visits from authors, storytellers
and even a lecturer showing American Indian dances.
Among the eight-week enrichment labs Jacksonville Beach
Elementary offers fourth and fifth graders are an AfroAmerican
history course, multi-cultural music, multi-cultural arts and
crafts and holidays around the world. …