Standing on the Alumni Auditorium stage in an orange tunic with a shekere (West African instrument) in hand, Juneteenth speaker Gordon Parks began his time with the Lower School community on October 26 engaging them in a song that highlighted the importance of storytelling. Through his music, the boys learned that African stories include a lot of animals, and they joined in the fun by making their own elephant, lion, and chicken sounds throughout the presentation when invited.
The first story Parks shared, “The Tug of War,” was about a porcupine who tried to befriend an elephant and a hippo. When asked what lesson they learned from the story, one boy said, “It doesn’t matter how big or small you are; you can be strong no matter your size!”
Another story Parks told was about a group of boys who were discussing their future aspirations: Some wanted to be warriors and protectors while others wanted to become rulers or kings. One boy, Zumani, said that he wanted to make people happy, an answer for which his friends teased him. Later that day, when Zumani helped a hurt lion, a voice from above reminded him that he, indeed, already had the gift of making people happy. This gift was Zumani’s purpose, it made him greater than any ruler or protector, and he should not let anyone tell him otherwise.
Parks was impressed with the group of Gilman boys listening intently to the story when they shared the many lessons they learned from it:
“No matter what they tell you, you can be anything you want to be.”
“Be nice to everyone no matter what people say.”
“Be confident in what you want to be.”
“Treat others how you want to be treated.”
What wonderful life lessons for everyone!
More about Gordon Parks
When he is telling stories, Gordon Parks is known as Soorah. He performs folklore, historical stories, cultural tales in live, virtual, and video presentations to young children, adults and families. He is a master storyteller and workshop presenter performing locally in Baltimore. During a pilgrimage to Senegal, West Africa, Gordon was introduced to the African culture of storytelling while visiting some of the villages. He loved that the stories expressed morals, principles, and values.