By: Ali Gorson-Marrow
On February 27th, in the Hyman Forum, Karen “Queen Nur” Abdul Malik performed her storytelling performance for a total of 40 listeners. Queen Nur is a well-respected alumna of Goucher’s Master’s in Cultural Sustainability program, president of the National Association of Black Storytellers, a mother of three, and a grandmother of two. Queen Nur’s performance was fun, entertaining, and touching.
As the show began, Queen Nur walked onto the stage in a beautiful African dress from Ghana, lovely African earrings, and to the music of several instruments including African drums played by Dwight James. Queen Nur opened the show with a small song that had the audience clapping and singing along very quickly.
The performance consisted of four wonderful stories and a musical finale. Each story taught a wonderful lesson while still incorporating the drums and a soft melody. While Queen Nur spoke the audience was, engaged, interested, and even ready to clap along to the melody.
The first story was called The Lion King of Mali. This story was all about the son of a king who could not walk or talk. People in the kingdom would say the King’s son should never take over the throne. However, the king’s son proved many wrong in the end of the story when he found his strength and was able to life a tree out of the ground. This story was a wonderful life lesson and fascinating to watch. Queen Nur told the story excitedly and even pretended to be the king’s son lifting a tree from the ground.
Next, Queen Nur told a story of a little girl in a village. In this village, each child would make a handmade gift for the blind elder mother. Queen Nur pretended to be the little girl in the story and portrayed to the audience how the little girl could not use her hands. The audience joined Queen Nur in pretending to be the river singing to the little girl and telling her to “life up her hands”. The river gave the little girl light that then brought the elder mother sight. It was a beautiful tale with a lovely song. Queen Nur finished the tale by saying “You are god’s sparkling lights”.
Between stories, Queen Nur had the entire audience sing a song with her about change. Everyone sang out “It’s alright to rearrange, it’s alright to make a change”. This song flowed perfectly into Queen Nur’s next two stories because they represented making change in one’s community.
The third and fourth stories were told with passion and love since they were more current stories about African American women who worked hard to help their people. These stories were about one woman who wrote for a free speech newspaper about the oppression of African Americans in America and another woman who made schools for children and eventually sat in on Roosevelt’s cabinet.
One of the best parts of the performance was the final song where Queen Nur invited audience members up on the stage to play characters in her final story. Queen Nur started off with two characters, Ma and Pa, trying to pull a sweet potato out of the ground. As the story continued, the audience sang even louder and Queen Nur had different audience members play animals that tried to help Ma and Pa pull the sweet potato out of the ground.
The entire cast was finally able to pull out the sweet potato when they danced, sang, and worked together. The song at first seemed like just a fun and goofy story. However, when the music stopped, Queen Nur looked out into the audience and explained that no matter your language, skin color, hair type or height, if you come together as a community you can make anything happen.
The performance was definitely a fun and interesting one that fit perfectly with Goucher’s theme of storytelling for this semester.