WESTERLY — Ron Daise, of the award-winning Nickelodeon Show “Gullah Gullah Island,” will join members of the Rhode Island Black Storytellers Saturday for the 21st annual celebration of “FUNDA FEST: A Celebration of Black Storytelling” at the Westerly Library.
The celebration, a weeklong series of cultural events, will take place at a number of locations across Rhode Island between Jan. 26 and Feb. 3. The official kickoff begins in Westerly, just as it has for many years.
The celebration will begin with a free workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, and will end with a free family storytelling concert at 1 p.m.
Storytellers Marlon Carey, Rochel Coleman, Ramona Bass Kolobe and Raffini will join Daise in Westerly, with Raffini serving as host.
Raffini is a self-made artist, actress, and teacher from the South Side of Providence, committed to telling stories that nurture the spiritual and creative abilities of youth. Actor, singer and storyteller Rochel Coleman shares stories of black historical legends, such as cowboy Nat Love and baseball player Cool Papa Bell, and Marlon Carey performs spoken-word poems and stories.
In the workshop, Daise, who lives in Georgetown, S.C., will present “Taak dat Taak” or “Talk that Talk,” an interactive program about Gullah Geechee, a “living and enduring culture” that exists along the coastal communities of the southeastern United States from Wilmington, N.C., throughout South Carolina and Georgia, to St. Augustine, Fla.
An author, performing artist and educator, Daise, a native of St. Helena Island, has presented stories, music, and lectures about history, culture, and faith at museums, theaters, conferences, churches, and educational institutions across the country. In 2016, he performed at the United Nations for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade observance.
Perhaps best known as “Mr. Ron” from “Gullah Gullah Island,” the Nick Jr. TV’s children’s program of the 1990s, Daise has served as vice president for Creative Education at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, S.C. He also is a past chairman of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission. A graduate of Hampton University in Hampton, Va., Daise and his wife, Natalie, reside in Georgetown, S.C., and are the parents of three adult children.
Brookgreen Gardens, a 9,000-acre property, is part of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a federal National Heritage Area established by the U.S. Congress to recognize the unique culture of the Gullah Geechee people who have traditionally resided in the coastal areas and the sea islands of the region.
The workshop will examine the four values and qualities that give meaning to why Gullah Geechee people talk the way they talk, live the lives they live, and the values sustaining their culture. Aspects of Gullah Geechee wisdom are relayed through songs, poetry, excerpts from cultural writings, and personal insights. For instance, “cotch de laarnin,” means to receive awareness about the significance of the living culture that exists in the communities of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.