Just as other art forms – jazz, blues, and dance – storytelling is a part of the Black experience. Storytellers have been sharing African and African American traditions for generations. We have always told stories in villages, on farms, on front porches, around dinner tables, at family reunions, and more. African American storytellers perpetuate traditions, inspire creativity, promote history, and instill values in all listeners.
The Beginning: In November of 1998, professional storytellers, Mama Edie Armstrong, Kucha Brownlee, Linda Gorham, Velma Gladney and Emily Hooper Lansana got together to discuss forming a Chicago storytelling association. Within a month, ASE: The Chicago Association of Black Storytellers was born. Soon after ASE became a proud affiliate of the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS) and acquired 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
We presented our first annual concert, targeting inner city audiences, on October 24, 1999. Held at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, we celebrated with a sold-out audience (455 seats). Over the years, we have added Tellabrations, youth concerts and storytelling workshops to our yearly performance objectives. In 2005, ASE formed a three-year partnership with the eta Creative Arts Foundation to expose storytelling to new audiences. In 2006 we started a youth group component. In 2007 we began a partnership with the Chicago Public Schools’ Homeless Education Department. Our goal was lift to the spirits of the children and to encourage a love of reading. Mention Soul Book Fair.
ASE Members perform at museums, cultural institutions, schools, libraries, churches and community organizations, plus many local and national festivals. Several of our over thirty members are part of the juried Illinois Arts Council’s Artstour Roster. Many have received prestigious storytelling, artistic, and publishing awards and grants.
ASE meets the 2nd Sunday of every month (except for Mothers Day and Easter) Currently, ASE business meetings are virtual. Please complete the form here to request an invitation to the storytelling part of our meeting or to request a storyteller.