Are You “Black Like Me”?
Any two people from the same cultural background are bound to share similar experiences with each other. On Saturday, Feb 18, Andrews University students met at the Howard Performing Arts Center lobby to note those experiences unique to the black community at the Black Like Me II: Story Slam.
Garrison Hayes, the organizer of the Black Like Me II: Story Slam, said he was inspired to organize a story slam by traditional West African griots: historians, storytellers and musicians who maintained prominent positions in their communities.
“These individuals were the story keepers and storytellers of African villages. They kept the traditions and folklore of their tribe and often told those stories around fires for both education and entertainment,” Hayes said.
Lisa Hayden (sophomore, biochemistry), Ludanne Francis (senior, English) Kevvin Thaw (senior, psychology), Autumn Goodman (freshman, photography), Neph Myrthil (freshman, theology), Kyle Smith (Master of Divinity, first year), Jordan Smart (senior, psychology), Daph Fenard (Master of Divinity, first year), and Denae Keizs (sophomore, documentary film) all shared varying stories from childhood to teenage years about growing up being black. Even Garrison Hayes (Master of Divinity, second year), the organizer of the event, was inspired to come up to the mic and share his own story.
Raymond Bennett (junior, biology), who attended the story slam, said, “My favorite story was probably Neph’s, mostly because I can relate a lot to being from Florida and football. I liked the detail of it and I liked how extensive it was.”
Myrthil’s story detailed his attempt to hide his report card from his father because he feared he got a “C” as a final grade—“which is like an ‘F’ if you’re Haitian,” Myrthil said—and he didn’t want his summer to be ruined. When Myrthil’s father received the report card near the beginning of the next school year, he found out that he got a “C” on the final exam, but a “B” in the class! Myrthil explained that if he had simply opened the report card when he initially received it from his school, he wouldn’t have gone through the whole ordeal to hide his report card. Myrthil joked that even though he got a passing grade, his father decided he couldn’t pass up the chance to “build his son’s character.”
Hayes explained he also enjoyed Myrthil’s story, and said, “I'm not Haitian, but I resonated with some of his points and I think I got a really funny look into what it was like to grow up in his home.”
Keizs also told a personal story from her childhood at the event.
When asked how she chose her story, Keizs said, “So basically, I called my brother this morning and I was like, ‘Junior, what am I going to do? I don’t have a funny story,’ and he gave me all these different options. My brother’s a storyteller, so he helped me out.”
Keizs added that the overall experience as a storyteller was great.
“I would say definitely do it again,” Keizs said, “It’s nerve wracking—my heart’s beating fast still—but it’s really fun and the crowd’s super supportive.”
As this year marks the second annual “Black Like Me” Story Slam, Hayes said he and others have plans to continue the tradition for years to come, featuring fresh perspectives and many new, interesting stories.
When asked if he would consider being a storyteller in the future, Bennett said, “I could see myself doing something like that.”