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Janice Greene & Naomi Reid_Photo by Human Being Productions. (c) Maryland State Arts Council.

Janice Greene & Naomi Reid

Blackstorytelling Windsor Mill and Baltimore, Maryland
Photo Credit: Human Being Productions. © Maryland State Arts Council
Janice Greene & Naomi Reid_Photo by Human Being Productions. (c) Maryland State Arts Council.

For Janice Greene, telling stories is larger than narrating tales or reenacting characters; rather, it is to call on collective memory, ancestral identity, and a sense of humanity and resilience. Embracing the griot tradition, Janice has been telling stories of Black ancestors and ancestry for over 25 years. As she regards it, Blackstorytelling (one word, not two) is the art of telling stories while embodying the culture of those who lived the tales. She shares stories that are largely unwritten but were experienced by African American communities.

Blackstorytelling stems from griots, West African praise singers responsible for preserving oral traditions and maintaining social cohesion by narrating genealogies and history. Storytelling has been a constant in African American communities since the arrival of enslaved Africans, central to preserving memory and identity across centuries and generations. In Baltimore’s rich history of collective action, storytellers, like griots, are often called upon by leaders to empower the city’s Black communities.

Known for using call and response, echoes, rap, rhythm, and refrain, Janice’s storytelling is wildly popular. She has told stories on stages, in churches, and in homes nationwide and as far away as Brazil and Zambia. The current president and a life member of the National Association of Black Storytellers and a life member and past president of the Griots’ Circle of Maryland, Inc., Janice has received several recognitions: a Harriet Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award from the Baltimore African American Tourism Council in 2016 as well as induction into the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center in 2015.

Fourteen-year-old Baltimore-native Naomi Reid was raised in the traditions and consciousness of African American culture. Also a member of the National Association of Black Storytellers, Naomi has been telling the collective stories of her community since she was 11. Through a Maryland State Arts Council Folklife Apprenticeship Award (2021-22), Naomi has worked with Janice to expand her vocabulary and performing techniques, her knowledge of folktales and more.

Janice and Naomi will present stories of African American women key to Eastern Shore heritage, especially Harriet Tubman, evoking colors, textures, sounds and tastes, and guiding the audience back to a space of memory, connection, and honor.

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