Bobby Norfolk at the MCC-Maple Woods Storytelling Celebration 11/6/2010


Uploaded by smartfuturetv on 24.01.2011

Transcript:

[whistling]
I was in a rare bookstore one day and I went to the section on Metaphysics
and I did not find this book, it found me.
  
And the thing when you go into a bookstore or a library,
all you do is turn on your sensory nerves.
Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do.
And I was goin' down the stacks and this book almost slid out the shelf.
[book sliding] Whoa.
And I took it off the shelf and I cracked it open.
And the author was a woman, I cannot remember her name right now,
it was many, many years ago but I remember the copyright date, 1902.
And it was about thoughts.
And one of those passages said, "You always can tell
"what your thoughts would do in bringing you hate or love
"because thoughts are things in their airy wings, or swift as a carrier dove.
"They follow the law of the universe that everything recreates its kind.
"And they speed over the track to bring you back whatever went out from your mind."
Now, take that to the bank.
And another time I was in the library in the section on biography.
And I found a book by a man named Paul Laurence Dunbar, prolific African-American poet.
And little did I know that when he was growing up in Dayton, Ohio,
his two best friends, this young black boy growing up in Dayton,
his two best friends were Wilbur and Orville Wright.
Mm-hmm. See how this thing works. Genius runs in packs.
Well, the Wright brothers went to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
and started playing with airplanes.
Paul Laurence Dunbar started playing with pen and parchment.
One of my favorites was from "Majors and Minors" that he wrote in 1895.
And little did I know that rap music started in 1895.
See, people think rap music started in the 1980's
with Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow,
The Sugarhill Gang, NWA, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Ice-T, Vanilla Ice.
[audience laughing]
[everyone laughing]
Yeah, I went there.
But it seems to me, said Booker T.,
that this here pop four-four beat started way back in Africa.
Dunbar picked up on it.
I want you all to help me tell one of his stories, one of his pieces.
Originally titled, in "Majors and Minors", "A Negro Love Song"
but let's update it and let's call it "Jump Back, Honey, Jump Back".
Mm-hmm.
Now, some of ya'll know this but for-for the uninitiated.
I will do the main part of the poem.
For example, I will say, "One, two, one, two,
"I seen my lady home last night."
The refrain from the audience is, "Jump back, honey, jump."
By George I think you've got it.
Alright here we go. When I do that, that's when you say your part.
If I don't do that, shut up. [audience laughing]
Director's note.
You signers over there, ya'll ready?
[everyone laughing]
The universal language, "Okay, rock and roll."
From the top.
One, two, one, two. I seen my lady home las' night.
[audience] Jump back, honey, jump back.
–Yeah, held her hand and squeeze it tight.
[audience] Jump back, honey, jump back.
--Hey, hear her sigh a little sigh,
Seen a light gleamin' from her eye, And a smile go flittin' by.
[audience] Jump back, honey, jump back.
--Yeah, I heard the wind blow through the pine.
[audience] Jump back, honey, jump back.
--Yeah, the mockin'-bird was singing fine.
[audience] Jump back, honey, jump back.
--Oh, and my heart was beatin' so,
When I reached my lady's door, that I couldn't bear to go.
[audience] Jump back, honey, jump back.
--Yeah, I put my arm around her waist.
[audience] Jump back, honey, jump back.
--Yeah, raised her lips and took a taste, whoo.
[audience] Jump back, honey, jump back.
--He said, love me, honey, love me true?
Love me well and I love you. And she answered, "'Course I do".
[audience] Jump back, honey, jump back.
--Pow.
[audience clapping]
  
This next story actually comes from the Island of Zanzibar.
Zanzibar, tiny island that sits in the Indian Ocean near Tanzania.
There are three girls in this story, all sisters to one another.
The smallest girl was in kindergarten,
she stood about...that tall, her name was Bimwili, Bimwili.
Now, she had an older sister, who was in the third grade,
she stood...that tall and her name was Teetee.
T-e-e-t-e-e, Teetee.
For you that wondered about the spelling.
[audience laughing]
Then, there was a sister in the fifth grade,
she stood...that tall and her name was Tasha.
Tasha, the vain one. She loved looking in the mirror.
"I'm so pretty." [kissing mirror]
Some narcissism in her personality.
However, Teetee and Tasha, the older girls in the third and fifth grade,
did not properly take care of their little sister one day on a walk through the forest
to play in the Indian Ocean and Bimwili got grabbed up by an ogre.
The ogre is named the Zimwi.
This is a story by Verna Aardema.
My version of "Bimwili and the Zimwi".
  
When the story opens up, it's early morning on the island of Zanzibar, East Africa.
Now, Teetee and Tasha, they wanted to go play in the Indian Ocean.
And they did not, I repeat, they did not want to take their little sister with them.
And they were protesting to their momma,
"Oh Momma. We don't want to take Bimwili with us.
"She's too little. She walks too slowly. She's in kindergarten.
"No Momma, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
"We're older, let us go to the beach by ourselves."
Momma listened then she said, "Now, you listen and listen well. Are you listening?"
[sisters] "Yes, ma'am."
[mother] "Good, I will say this one time.
"If you don't take your sister with you to go play on the beach, you won't go either."
[sister] "Oh, come on girl, you make us sick."
Bimwili didn't care, she thought it was funny,
"Momma said I could go. You've been overruled. Bam."
[laughing as Bimwili]
"I don't care if you're mad. You can be mad until you get glad.
"Now, momma said I could go and you know Momma rules."
Those girls knew it too. Oh, but they were upset.
"Gotta take this little brat with us everywhere we go."
Bimwili didn't care.
As they were going through the rain forest
she heard all of the sounds and the forest awakening.
[bird cawing] [monkey chattering]
[birds cawing] [birds chirping]
Pretty birds. [Bimwili laughing]
Eventually, they arrived at the beach and there it was, the Indian Ocean.
[waves rolling in]
The older girls knew how to swim so they perched themselves up on an overhanging rock,
timed the waves coming in on the shore, and jumped into the ocean.
"Let's go swimming." [girls laughing]
Bimwili had never been swimming in her life.
"I've been in a wading pool but this ain't a wading pool."
She looked and couldn't see the other side.
"Can't see the other side. Teetee what's on the other side of the Indian Ocean?"
[Teetee] "Australia." [Bimwili] "Whoooaaaa. Come from the land down under."
[Bimwili laughing]
She tasted it. "Blak, it's salty.
"All this water, you can't even drink it. What's up with that?"
Tasha said, "Oh, you silly girl. The sun evaporates the water, salt stays behind.
"They become clouds, it rains." [raining]
"Fresh water."
[Bimwili] "Whoooaaa. I want to swim."
But when she tried to get into the ocean,
the wave frightened her backwards each time.
[waves rolling in]
"Aaaaaahhhh-haaa-haa-ha-ha-ha. Oh man, it's warm too."
The older girls having big fun.
[sisters] "Come on in Bimwili." [Bimwili] "I can't swim." [sisters] "We know."
[going under water]
[Bimwili] "I don't care."
She really did.
But one of those times she tried to get into the ocean,
the wave dropped a big pink seashell, right at her feet.
[waves rolling in]
"Oohhh, a seashell and it's mine."
She picked it up, put it to her ear.
She could hear the sound of the ocean inside.
[sound of ocean] [Bimwili laughing]
"You know what, I'll make up a song for my seashell.
"Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay,okay...okay, okay, okay...okay, okay."
[clears throat]
[using high voice] "La, la, la, la, la."
[using medium voice] "La, la, la, la, la."
[using low voice] "La, la, la, la, la."
[clearing throat]
[singing] "I have a shell that came from the sea.
"A shell the big wave gave to me.
"It's pink inside like the sunset sky.
"And inside you can hear the ocean sigh."
[sound of ocean]
She was so happy with her new seashell.
She set it down on a rock and started making sand castles at the water's edge.
But, by 12:00, noon, the older girls are ready to go home for lunch.
They had been walking for about 15 minutes
and all of a sudden, Bimwili stopped.
"Oohh, oohh, hey, hey, I forgot my seashell."
Her sister said, "So."
[Bimwili] "We have to go back and get it."
[sister] "No, we don't." [Bimwili] "Yes, we do."
[sister] "Read my lips little girl, no we don't.
"We'll come back next week and get it."
She said, "I'm not gonna get it next week, somebody might take it. I want to go get it now."
Uh, they said, "That don't work with us girlfriend.
"We not going with you now. If you want it, you go by yourself.
"We're out of here."
And those older girls went on home and let their little sister walk back by herself.
Well, as she was going back to get her seashell,
she had to sing that song to comfort herself.
[singing] "I have a shell that came from the sea.
"A shell the big wave gave to me.
"It's pink inside like the sunset sky.
"And inside you can hear the ocean sigh." [sound of ocean]
She had sung that song three times but when she got back to the beach,
right there on that same rock where she had left her seashell...
Ba-boom...was the Zimwi.
He was on top of the rock like a giant bullfrog.
He had long skinny arms that hung over the rock,
big, sharp, three-inch fingernails that scratched on the rock.
[scratching the rock]
He had a huge head that went through the air like a giant lightbulb.
[growling]
Big, bubble eyes hung out of his face like two mangoes.
Blaaaah.
He had a witches nose that came out down to a big crook like that.
He had fangs in his mouth, two at the top, two at the bottom.
When he opened up his mouth to smile,
green slobber ran from his mouth. Blaaaah.
She said, "Oh, my, my, I think you need a hanky."
[Zimwi] "Thank you. Blaaaaah. Her-..." [Bimwili] "No, you keep it."
[Zimwi] "Thanks. How sweetly you sing little girl."
[Bimwili] "Thank you sir. I just want to get my seashell
"so I can catch up with my older sisters."
[Zimwi] "Okay, sing that song for me one more time, "I'll give you the seashell."
[Bimwili] "I have a shell that came from the sea."
[Zimwi] "Come closer and sing louder."
She came a little closer.
[Bimwili quietly singing] "I have a shell that came from..."
[Zimwi] "Come closer and sing louder."
He kept telling her to come closer and sing louder, and come closer and sing louder
until finally she was right below the Zimwi.
All of a sudden...
"Aaaaaahhhhh, mommy, daddy, mommy, daddy, aaahhhh-ha-ha-ha."
[Zimwi] "Ah, gotcha."
He had a tall conga drum.
He took the head of his conga drum off.
He put the girl inside, put her seashell inside and put the drum head back on tightly.
[Zimwi laughing]
"Now, I have the only singing drum in the world.
Mm-hmm.
"And everywhere I go little girl, I will play my drum like this."
Boom-boom, boom, boom-boom, boom, boom-boom, boom, boom-boom, boom.
"And you must sing that song of the seashell otherwise you shall not eat."
And at that, the Zimwi put the drum on his back and started walking into the forest.
When he got to a nearby village, he took the drum off his shoulder.
"Gather all the people around, I have a magic singing drum.
"That's right. Not just boom, boom, boom.
It could sing a song of a seashell.
"Feed me a meal, I will have my magic drum sing for you."
The people got all excited.
They'd never heard of a magic singing drum before.
And they rushed around to get the Zimwi some food.
And then the Zimwi played that drum
and the little girl was forced to sing the song of the seashell from inside.
But, in the meantime, Teetee and Tasha came skipping into their village.
"Hi mom, we're here for lunch."
Momma said, "Uhm... where's Bimwili?"
[sisters] "Who?"
[mother] "Who?! What about that little girl you been livin' with your whole life?
"Your little sister, remember her? She wants lunch too."
[sisters] "Okay, you tell her." "I'm not gonna tell her, you tell her."
"Well, you in the third grade." "You in the fifth grade."
Momma said, "I did not ask grade levels, where is your sister?"
When they said they let her walk back by herself...
"What?!? Go get my baby out of that forest right now.
"I can't believe you two."
Oh, the girls they ran and they walked,
[repeating] they walked then they ran, then they ran then they walked,
oh double dutch,
[repeating] they ran then they walked, then they walked then they ran.
But, when they got back to the beach, the tide was out.
There was nothing on the beach but little sand crabs wondering across the sand.
And they knew something terrible had happened to their little sister and it was their fault.
And they ran back home to tell their momma what happened. "Momma, we can't find her."
[mother] "Oh, baby, where's my baby?"
She told her husband what happened too.
He got all his friends together and by night they lit torches in the fire.
Look for her all night long.
"Bimwili, where are you? Bimwili, where are you child?"
They looked around for seven days and seven nights, they could never find her.
They were so very sad.
But, in the meantime, the Zimwi would take
that little girl from one village to another.
He would play the drums, she would sing,
they would give him a big meal to eat,
and later on he would take the drum head off in the forest,
give her fruit from the trees to eat.
But one day, one day, he took that drum to a certain village in the forest.
[Zimwi] "Haven't been here before. Ha, ha."
Set the drum on the ground, boom.
"Gather all the people around, I have a magic singing drum, not just boom, boom, boom.
"It can sing a song of a seashell.
"Feed me a meal, I will have my magic drum sing for you."
The people got all excited.
They'd never heard of a magic singing drum before
and they rushed around to get the Zimwi some food.
And one woman walked over to the Zimwi,
"Excuse me Zimwi, would you like fish or chicken with your rice?"
Bimwili said, "Ah!"
That was her momma's voice out there.
The Zimwi had accidentally taken her back to her own village
and now was talkin' to her momma.
She said, "Oh, I have to think of a way
"to let my momma know I'm inside this drum."
So when the Zimwi started playing the drum
she changed the lyrics of her song slightly, ever so slightly.
This time she sang, "I have a shell that came from the sea.
"A shell the Zimwi stole from me.
"It's dark in here like the midnight sky
"and if you listen you can hear Bimwili sigh."
Zimwi didn't hear that, neither did the momma, but the two sisters did.
They said, "Momma, momma, that's Bimwili inside that drum. I know her singing voice."
Momma said, "What? Are you sure?"
[sisters] "Yes, ma'am."
[mother whispers] "Sh, I have an idea."
Momma found an empty bucket.
[clearing throat]
"Excuse me Zimwi, would you take this bucket to the river
"and fill up some water in it for your dinner."
[Zimwi] "Of course I will, no problem. I'll leave my drum here until I return."
Daddy said, "Yeah, you do that."
When the Zimwi was gone the daddy went up to the drum,
"Everybody get back, give me some room here, get back!
"Stand down. My job."
The daddy took the head of that drum off.
And there his little girl was inside holding her seashell to her chest.
The daddy picked her up and gave her back to the mommy.
They were crying tears of joy, they were so happy.
The two sisters started jumping up and down.
"Yeah, Bimwili's back. Yeah, Bimwili's back. Yeah."
They said, "Hey, hey, it ain't Hammer time."
[father] "Zimwi gonna be back in a few minutes."
[sisters] "Oh, daddy what we gonna do?"
[father] "Take your momma and go in the hut.
"Take your momma and get in the hut get, get."
[everyone leaving]
Momma and the girls disappeared.
Daddy took sand from the ground, put it in the drum
until it was about the same weight as his little girl was.
He put the head of the drum back on.
Somebody said, "Here he comes, here he comes."
[whistling]
The Zimwi returned during the manicure.
[Zimwi growling]
"Here's your water."
[father] "Thank you. Excuse me Zimwi,
"why don't you play us one more tune before dinner?"
[Zimwi] "I'll do it."
[Zimwi snorting and laughing]
Boom-boom, boom, boom-boom, boom.
[Zimwi whispers] "Sing little girl."
Boom-boom, boom, boom-boom.
[Zimwi angrily whispers] "Sing little girl."
But no song came from the drum this time.
Everybody knew why. [laughing at the Zimwi]
"Look at that clown." [laughing continues]
The Zimwi kept playing but no song came from the drum.
The daddy said, "Uhm, what's the matter Zimwi, drum have laryngitis?"
[father laughing]
"Cat got its tongue" [continues laughing]
"Cat named Diddle-diddle."
[everyone laughing]
Your energy is still on this stage, you all do know that?
And the Zimwi got so embarrassed he put the drum on his back, "I'm out of here, forget dinner."
[Zimwi growling]
"You're gonna get it little girl, you gonna get it."
[Zimwi growling]
He got back in the forest.
"Whew, that was embarrassing, what were you thinking little girl..."
[no audio]
"Why did you not sing little girl when I told you to, huh?"
[no audio]
"Oh, you won't talk to me anymore, huh?
"You wait 'til I get my hands on you."
He took the head of his drum off.
"Aaaaaaahhhhhh!"
I've been tricked.
The Zimwi was a shape shifter and used his powers to change his form...
[Zimwi changing form]
...into a big orange pumpkin.
He hung on a vine and shut his eyes.
The next morning there were the three girls,
picking fruit for breakfast into big baskets.
All of a sudden Bimwili looked in that pumpkin patch and there was that big orange pumpkin.
"Wow, look at that big old pumpkin.
"My momma could make five pies out of that. I'm gonna pluck it for momma."
But as soon as she reached for it, the Zimwi said, "I'll pluck you."
[Bimwili screaming]
She started running.
The Zimwi ran after her, said, "Come back here, come back here."
Bimwili was running as hard as she could but remember ya'll she was in kindergarten,
had little short kindergartener legs, she can only run so fast.
"Mommy, mommy!"
She kept falling down.
The older girls could run much faster.
"Oh, let's get out of here."
[running]
Boogety, boogety, boogety, boogety.
[running]
Boogety, boogety, boogety, boogety.
Bimwili was way behind.
"He's gonna catch me again, he's gonna catch me again."
The girls stopped, "You better come on girl."
[Bimwili screaming]
They ran back so hard when they got back home she looked like Supergirl.
[Bimwili screaming]
I wish I could raise that other foot for ya.
[audience laughing]
That's what I get for being on planet Earth.
They ran back home and said, "Daddy, daddy, the Zimwi,
"he changed into a pumpkin and now he's chasing us."
[father] "What! I'm sick of that Zimwi.
"Get in the hut with your momma. Men, get your machetes ready."
And when the Zimwi came the men had their machetes.
[machetes slashing]
The Zimwi stopped, "Whoa.
Have you seen my people come this way?"
Daddy say, "I don't know. Are your people little pumpkins?"
[Zimwi] "I see footprints going into the hut.
When the Zimwi went for the hut, the men went for their machetes.
"Get back, get back, get back!"
[Zimwi] "Whoa!"
He wanted no parts of the steel.
Instead he used his shape shifting power
one more time to change into a big white seagull.
He flew over the village. [bird cawing]
Over the forest. [bird cawing]
Back to the beach. [bird cawing]
And landed on that same rock where he had met Bimwili,
changed back into his hideous self.
[Zimwi growling]
"Farewell my little singer, you have won. I'm out of here."
He never returned.
But that night, in Bimwili's village
everybody was seated around telling stories.
And everybody would walk up to the front of the group to tell their very best story.
But when Bimwili walked up to the front of the group with her seashell in her hand,
she had the very best story to tell of all.
And that's the end of that.
[instrumental music]