African storyteller visits Overton

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 17, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — African storyteller Obakunle Akinlana merged folktales and music to create a cultural extravaganza for students Wednesday at Overton Elementary School.
“Culture is the bridge toward understanding,” Akinlana said.
Students clapped along as Akinlana played percussion instruments. And the gymnasium fell silent as he sounded out the names for each piece of traditional African garb he was wearing.
Akinlana showed students how his pants were pulled up all the way to his waist, not sagging. And he talked about using proper salutations instead of “wassup.”
“My goal is to break down stereotypes of Africa,” he said. “I want to educate as well as entertain.”
Akinlana kept students engaged by telling jokes and allowing them to participate in a music performance. Some played instruments while others sang along to the verse “one heart, one love, one peace, one world.”
He used a traditional African proverb to encourage the students to band together as friends.
“One tree does not make a forest, neither does a thread make a fabric,” he said. “We all need each other.”
Communities in Schools of Rowan County, a United Way agency, brought Akinlana to the school as part of the Dream Program.
The program gives students exposure to professionals in different career settings and encourages them to excel in school to achieve their goals.
Krystal Kelly, the Communities in Schools site coordinator at Overton, said Akinlana fit the bill as a guest speaker for the program because he is not only a storyteller, but an entrepreneur.
She said his performance shows students what kind of things they can do with natural talent.
“They can use their own traits to be successful,” she said.
Kelley said the Dream Program includes about 100 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. It meets once a month during school hours.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.