Granny Tales: Fascinating stories of a Rich History

Creator(s): Hatsephi Kushma


Documenting culture is an important factor in preserving the history of a people. The Griots of West Africa were storytellers, praise singers, poets, and/or musicians. Although it may be said that the Griot is an entertainer or performing artist, their role has traditionally been to preserve the genealogies, historical narratives, and oral traditions of their people. It is an honorable position passed down in the family through generations. The Griot was often the elder and grandparent in the family or most engaging person in the community. People of all ages delighted in the wisdom of the Griot. Granny Tales is a tribute to this dying tradition of storytelling. It is a first-hand account of what it was like growing up in the early 20th century by nonagenarian grandmothers whose ages range from 90 years and older. These delightful short stories are set in the Jim Crow south and throughout the country where families migrated after the civil war. Granny Tales are designed to entertain and teach the next generation about the wisdom of elders, the richness of culture, and the value of community. It is based on the principal of each one, teach one, to educate via partnerships.


Granny Tales are short videotaped stories told by our 98-year-old Griot, who is Granny. The purpose of Granny Tales is to get families together to talk to each other and listen to what older people have to say. The age of technology played a big part in distancing families and creating a
generation gaps. There were no smart phones, computers, or internet. Granny talks about how to use the first telephone, cranking up a car in the front to start it, and watching television for the very first time. Granny Tales are adventures that got her in trouble for sneaking out after dark to go party in the next town and the only way to get there was through the woods and crossing a lake lit by moonlight. Whether climbing trees, running from a tornado, driving a tractor, or winning at the spelling bee, Granny Tales leaves quite an impression on what it was like growing up in America during the 20th Century.


Granny Tales is just the first stage of videotaping nonagenarians as Griots sharing life stories. Our pilot series features Essie Holly, age 98 years old, as Granny. Stories are videotaped in various locations such as her home, a fishing lake, a grocery store, etc., recalling stories relating to the location. Each story/episode is approximately 5 minutes in length. The opening is Granny as an animated caricature, which transitions into real life Granny telling the story. Myself and a team of high school interns will videotape and edit. Granny Tales will premiere on YouTube to build an audience. As funding becomes available, we will incorporate more animation into the stories. The ultimate goal of this project is to also create Papa Tales told by grandfathers.