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African Storyteller to Portray Equal Rights Fight

African Storyteller to Portray Equal Rights Fight


Vanessa Johnson, a griot or storyteller in the West African tradition, will give voice to the hopes and dreams of young American girls and women, black and white, who fought for equality, on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at SUNY Cortland.

Johnson will sing her original music and portray historical roles during an interactive performance titled “Women Marching: Women’s Narratives from the Civil Rights Movement” starting at 7:15 p.m. in Sperry Center, Room 105. Bernie Williford will accompany her on keyboard.

Presented by the College’s Education Club, the event is free and open to the public.

Johnson is a writer, playwright, vocalist, fiber artist, teaching artist, historian and community educator.

As an historian, she uses her voice to preserve the history of the past and the stories of the present. A former director of the J.P. Morgan Chase Interactive History Museum, Johnson founded and directed a youth drama group and developed interactive programs to bring historical themes to life.

She also served the Onondaga Historical Society as director of education. In that capacity, Johnson developed and implemented educational programs and curriculums both in the museum and in a new school-based program that reached more than 300 students per week in 25 area schools. She initiated history-themed youth camps.

As a community educator, Johnson uses her years of experience directing social service programs for youth and providing direct service to teachers and future educators to demonstrate — through storytelling — classroom management skill models.

She first began working with children at the Syracuse Model Neighbors Southwest Center as director of youth and teen programming. Johnson captured significant grants for programs to prevent teen pregnancy and to support mentally challenged youth.

She established Mosai Village Enterprises as an important local resource for educational programming and performances for conferences, community celebrations, television and radio.

For more information, contact Education Club advisor Karen Hempson, lecturer in childhood/early childhood education, at 607-753-4209.