Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recounts her own experience growing up with "single stories" - in other words believing there is one truth, instead of many truths. The daughter of college educated parents, she grew up reading American and European novels. The result? When she started writing her own stories, they featured characters with white skin and blue eyes who ate apples and played in the snow. Adichie didn't know her own story was a valid one to tell.
In the United States, Adichie encounters people who have their own "single stories" when it comes to life on the African continent. How does she know how to speak English so well? One student, after having read one of Adichie's novels, expresses sadness that African fathers are so abusive to their children. Adichie retorts that she just finished reading "American Psycho" and isn't it a shame all young men are mass murderers?
The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete...The consequence of the single story is this - it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.
Adichie argues eloquently for the importance of having a diversity of stories, and for readers to never assume that the story they read is the "single story."
Singer Maisah Blanton and poet/performer Louis Alemayehu are two of the "Fathers and Daughters" performing this Saturday at Heart of the Beast in Minneapolis.
The band Ancestor Energy has been combining jazz and poetry at Twin Cities venues for 26 years now and - while it's not worked too hard to promote itself - in that time its developed quite a family of guest musicians, former band members, and friends. This weekend these jazz veterans pass the musical torch to women of the next generation who are presenting great art in their own right. "Fathers and Daughters" combines poetry, song, dance and storytelling to talk about the importance of the extended family. Founding member Louis Alemayehu says:
Extended family is really important. It's the reason we survive as well as we do, by the way that we make family through marriage and through our community connections.
Women see the world through a different lens, and because that lens has not been appreciated, my impression is that a lot of things are out of order because we don't see through the lens of a woman. As a father, I feel inspired to support the leadership of women.
While Alemayehu says this concert is about supporting strong young women, Maisah Blanton says in turn it's also about saying thank you to her elders.
The music for me is a reminder that although you have a father, we don't just have one father, we have many fathers. My belief and my teaching from my elders has always been "it takes a village to raise a child."
Being able to contribute as an individual affects communities all around. And if you have something positive to contribute - something that will enhance the quality of another person's life - that then radiates out and its kind of like a rippling affect through communities.
As part of the concert Alemayehu will perform new work that pays homage to the work of women. Here's an excerpt from his piece "Living in the Questions:"
Daughters take the swords of your father's songs
And beat them into plow shears
Prepare the New Ground
Be free from the known wisdom
Courage gives birth to Discovery
Daughters you will wash in your father's tears
And know that he was healed and glad for your being
Womanly, Powerful, Transforming all things made new
What does a woman's leadership look like
When she does NOT believe she has to imitate a man to be truly powerful?
Ancestor Energy - and family - perform "Fathers and Daughters" this Saturday at 8pm at Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre.