On April 7th, I organized a virtual community event for my school, The Unquowa School, to listen to stories from international author and storyteller, Baba Wague Diakite. Baba Wague Diakite deeply believes in the power of traditional storytelling. He believes in this art form so much that he has dedicated his life to it. Baba Wague is the founder of Ko-Falen Cultural Center. Ko-Falen is a center that provides youth with the courses they need in order to become traditional storytellers. This is done in an effort to preserve traditional storytelling. Baba Wague established the center because he noticed that traditional storytelling was becoming obsolete and believed that stories inform the youth on how to live in harmony with nature and how to be part of a community.

Baba Wague reflects:

“I believe the root cause of too much distancing between people is simply fear. I learned from my childhood experience that whenever people come together in harmony and engaged into conversations, they will most likely find a level of commonality with one another. This can be done through Storytelling as everyone has a story to tell.”

I was compelled to organize this community storytelling event featuring fellow African elder, Baba Wague, because of his belief that inspiration and comfort are found in stories. Growing up in the war-torn country of the Democratic Republic of Congo and refugee camps throughout southern Africa, stories provided the greatest security and hope for me. It was the coming together of people that offered solace. Later on, I drew strength from stories in times of uncertainty. Stories where a source of guidance and an incredible teaching tool, much like rap music became for me once I moved to New York in 2011.

I recommend that young people seek to listen to the elders close to them them share stories about the past, share stories about events they have endured. Their stories offer perspective, and quell the high level of stress and uneasiness during the Covid-19 pandemic. The stillness that is required when listening to a story allows us to ease our spirit. Baba Wague, the legendary story teller and highly respected elder, provided safety and gentleness that is needed for children and adults alike.

I encourage anyone who is looking for a book about a childhood in Africa, to read Baba Wagué Diakité’s memoir, A Gift from Childhood:  Memories of an African Boyhood.

Above all, reading stories about your favorite football (soccer) player can provide you with the example of resilience and discipline we need in order to see this pandemic through!

Author: Tré Kayumba taught Cultural Storytelling to SBU Academy middle school students during the Summer Soccer Scholars program in 2019. He is an English and Social Studies teacher at The Unquowa School in Fairfield, Connecticut and the founder of the Fairfield Yabantu, an anti-racism group dedicated to addressing the issues of racism, classism, sexism, and othering.