Calender, aka "Baba-C," is a native Washintonian who has been described as a living library and "the Sage of Anacostia." For more than 30 years of performances, his interactive storytelling techniques have been shared with audiences of all ages at museums, schools and libraries all over the district. His upcoming performances include visits to the Anacostia Community Museum this Saturday and on Oct. 13.
Where did your interest in this type of work come from?
I practically grew up in the Anacostia library, in a time before the Internet and cellphones. ... Libraries helped to magnify my interest in literature and was my pathway to knowledge and adventure.
Tell me a little bit about the griot culture.
Griots are a combination of historians, storytellers, living libraries and we are the repository of our cuture. It is our job to transmit the important information of our culture and community, not only to those who follow but to those who are with us now. Traditionally, we used storytelling to teach things like morals and life lessons. ... We encourage people to accept themselves for who they are and to use what makes them unique.
What are your performances like?
The audience becomes part of the experience. I'm known to bring people out of the audience, dress them in traditional dress, give them lines and make them part of the stories. They can expect a good time, and if they aren't careful they just might learn something.
What does sharing the griot culture mean to you?
For years as a young child, I was trying to find something in books that I never found. I was looking for me. Most of the books I read did not have characters that were me. If you don't see positive inclusion of yourself growing up, it can really mess you up. The importance of being a griot is to help African-Americans and the community at large to become aware of African-American history in so many things like science, literature and teaching.
- Abby Hamblin