Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ proclamation explained for children
Call for Best African Folk Story out
Limited investments in Africa’s cultural sector not enough, says initiator Mwali
By Godwin Okondo
A new project designed to collect, document and digitally preserve traditional oral African cultural heritage and history is borne. It is a diaspora project called African Tales Initiative. The initiator is a Belgium-based Zambian artist, Bwalya Mwali. It has as theme ‘Our Story, Our Voices,’ with the objective of creating user-friendly digital archive for easy information accessibility on Africa’s folk narratives.
The folk story submissions project will engage cross-generational Africans to participate in a competition for the Best Traditional African Folk Story. The contest is for primary school pupils. Entry spans from September 30, 2022 to November 30, 2022.
The 2022 contest for folk stories is about engaging pupils of African origin, wherever they live, to enter for the competition for the Best Traditional African Folk Story, stated Mwali.
She added: “African folktales embody our shared common African history and help to reinforce Africa’s cultural values and traditions. Folk tales, fairy tales, tall tales, legends, proverbs, fables, or whatever format they take, are often stories about humans or animals that act like humans, and involve myth and magical transformations.”
The project is an initiative designed for primary school pupils, to document and make oral African cultural heritage and history easily accessible. It will afford African pupils opportunity to tell their own story. Engaging young people is not only significant for preserving African folk tales in general, but also all the specific cultures and meanings that they denote. Children can be important vehicles for the transmission of cultures as well as for the promotion of a multicultural society.
Most of these stories convey a message or moral to the listener, or explain something in a creative way. Folktales are often passed down and retold through oral traditions from generation to generation.
The event will include annual competitions for Best Folk Tales, collecting, editing and submission of stories, review and archiving using digital space. For each of the participating countries, one or more winning stories deemed suitable for children will be selected for illustration by school children. A manual will be prepared for country-wide school competitions for best illustrations, with the winning illustrations published in story time for children books, focus group meetings, workshops, conferences. Also, a range of activities will be organized around folk tales to attract visitors to local communities, community education and mobilisation, training programmes in story-telling skills, annual story-telling production and African cultural heritage and history digital academy for folk story contest finalists.
The project covers Africa, North America, Caribbean, Latin America and other regions with African diaspora populations, including the European Union, Asia and the Pacific.
The beneficiaries will be the local communities, people of African origin, both on the African continent and the diaspora, whose cultural heritage may otherwise be lost. Others are students, researchers, the elders who are custodians of the oral traditions, and the world population interested in transcultural traditions, young people of African origin and African society as a whole.
Several communities and schools will take part in the competition for Best Illustrated Folk Tale for Children, with an indirect beneficiary population of several thousands of school children. Art teachers will be trained in coaching school children in preparing illustrations for children’s story books using computers. Furthermore, teachers and assistants will also be trained in digital archiving methods. The cultural players in each country will be able to interconnect with regional actors and establish systems and links to facilitate replication of the programmes in other countries. The participating countries will be encouraged to host regional story-telling conferences.
The stories will be translated for the wider audience, but essentially the team will make sure that the local communities have access to their heritage of folk tales. Due to limited investments into the cultural sector in most countries, it is not easy to find reliable data on oral traditions. We hope that the project will help to influence policy makers in ensuring adequate documentation of oral traditions and other important aspects of cultural heritage.
WHILE speaking on the project, the sister-in-law to Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Carol Scott-King, addressed the young people during the virtual launch of the project thus: “God bless you, our future leaders. If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and my boys, his brother were to speak to you today, they would choose to talk to you about your life’s blueprint. What is your life’s blueprint? This is the most crucial period in your life. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. When a building is built, you usually have an architect who draws the blueprint, which serves as a pattern, and a layout for those who build the building. That building cannot be well erected without a good plan and a solid blueprint.
“Each and everyone of you, in the process of building your lives, and the question is, if you have a solid or sound blueprint. I would like to suggest some of the things that should be in your life’s blueprint. Number one is the deep belief in your dignity, your worth, and most importantly, that you are somebody. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel like you are nobody.
“Always feel that you count, always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has an ultimate significance, that you are beautiful and wonderfully made by God almighty. Don’t be lured into changing your God-given features to someone else. You are beautiful, beautifully made, and you should be proud.”
King also enjoined young people never to drop out of school no matter the situation they find themselves, saying education held the key to a bright future. She also tasked young people to be meticulous in their chosen field, adding that they should see it as God’s mandate for their lives.
“In your life, you must have the best sensible determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavour,” she said. “Whatever it is that you have chosen, do it so well and better than anyone else. That is excellence today. I will urge you to study hard; don’t quit or drop out of school. I understand all the unimaginable and sociological reasons that we drop out of school for, but I tell you that in spite of your economic plight and in spite of the situation you are forced to endure, no matter what intolerable your conditions may be, please stay in school and do not quit.
“When you discover what you are going to be in life, set out to do it as if God almighty called you for this particular moment in history to do it. When you do it, set out to do it that the living or unborn could not do it better. If you cannot be a pine from the top of the hill, be a scrub in the valley, but be a little scrub on the side of the hill, be a bush if you can’t be a tree; if you can’t be a highway, be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. It’s not only by the size that you win or you fail to be the best of whatever you are.”
King returned to the subject of blueprint again, as the springboard for success, but enjoined young people to cultivate the principle of love, beauty and justice in all they do.
“Finally, in your life’s blueprint must be commitment to eternal principles of love, beauty and justice,” she said. “Don’t allow anyone to pull you so low to make you hate them. Don’t allow anybody to cause you to lose your self respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice. However young you are, you have the responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation on which we live.
“You have a responsibility to make life better for everyone, and so you must be involved in the struggle for freedom and justice. We must be prepared for freedom and justice with nonviolent principles as a way of life. Please, repeat after me if you are listening; I will commit to non-violent principles as a way of life. So help me God. Thank you so much, and God bless you.”
King also spoke on her late brother-in-law’s famous ‘I Have A Dream’ quote, laying out the five principles that undergird her husband’s ‘I Have A Dream’ philosophy.
“Finally, I want to talk to you about ‘I Have A Dream,’ too. There are five processes involved that I would like to share with you. The first is the word ‘think.’ Think about the values and principles that you would like to live by, and you must acquire problem-solving skills, become an intellectual philosopher and think outside the box, just like Martin Luther King Jr did.
“Number two is the word ‘believe.’ You must believe in yourself based on the thinking about the values and principles that you are going to live by. I say to you categorically that with God all things are possible. Believe that you are a collective experience of all that ever lived before you. You are somebody and are wonderfully made.
“The third word is ‘dream.’ Dream about something that you want to be based on your belief in yourself. Dream big because dreams give you hope; dream is empowering and dream expands your horizon beyond your imagination. Next is the word ‘dare.’ Dare to make your dream a reality. Make it happen. No excuses.
“The last is becoming an ‘entrepreneur’ and embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship. Set about self-sufficiency rather than dependency. Build your own wealth, not job seekers but employer of labour. With our sacrifice, our courage and determination, we shall overcome. God bless us all.”