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Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Six-Triple Eight

LaTASHA BOYD JONES
LaTASHA BOYD JONES
"Tasha Jones is a rare and wonderful artist that strikes a balance in a world so often lopsided. She has the soul of a Nikki Giovanni draped in the Haute Couture fashions of a runway model. Jones is a student of life and a teacher of lessons. On stage, she tells the story of her life and, in doing so, tells the story of all women, a story of love, loss, and life. She offers a perspective, poignancy, and insight in her writing that allows men to see themselves through her work and women to see themselves in her work. She proves herself to be simultaneously what women are and what they aspire to be. Once you've experienced her for yourself, you will feel better, wiser, and are enriched for it." — Jon Goode

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LaTasha Jones

“The Griot is Coming.” “The Griot is Coming.”

Storytelling Arts of Indiana is hosting the griot and storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston. She will use the power of word and story to share the legacy of the Six-Triple Eight, the only predominantly Black Women’s Army Corps (WAC) Battalion that served overseas during World World II.

The “Six-Triple Eight,” otherwise known as the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, was meticulously chosen by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, a respected educator and public figure who advised President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dr. McLeod Bethune, along with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, strongly pushed for the involvement of black women in the war effort. As a result, over 800 black women were sent overseas to England aboard the SS Ile de France on February 3, 1945.

Their mission was to clear several years of

backlogged mail in the European Theater of Operations; the WAC embraced the motto “No Mail, Low Morale.” In 2022, the 6888 Battalion was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Netflix will stream the Six-Triple Eight, an upcoming period film starring Kerry Washington as Captain Charity Adams, the commander of the 6888 battalion(s) during World War II. Susan

Sarandon plays First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Oprah portrays Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. The film is written and directed by Tyler Perry and is expected to be released this year.

Charlotte Blake Alston, a renowned storyteller, travels the world narrating cultural history through a repertoire of stories, proverbs, and fables that can be adapted for any grade level or age group. Blake Alston attributes her love for keeping records and storytelling to her father, John Edward Blake Senior, a writer and orator. She recalls, “Sneaking into the study to sit in her father’s presence while he wrote and recited poems like pearls cast at her feet.” She says, “My dad introduced me to the literary legend Paul Laurence Dunbar at six.” Her fate was sealed after young Charlotte recited a Dunbar poem written in African American Vernacular English at a family function. She fell in love with Dunbar’s words because he was the first to catch hold of the rhythmic, melodic sounds of Africa, translated through the phonetic spelling of words and phrases, creating the representation of the African heritage for a culture of people who were once legally forbidden to learn.

Dunbar had brilliantly created and dignified the African oral dialect of English. The identical language of her Great Aunts and Uncles filled her home and bathed her ears. Dunbars’ words somersaulted lips after twisting on the tongue. Intrigued, young Charlotte began honing her skills and commenced performing. Now, with over thirty years of experience, Blake Alston has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Kimmel Center. She has narrated symphony orchestras and performed at storytelling festivals worldwide. In 1991, Charlotte became the first storyteller to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and thirty seasons later, in 2021, she was named The Orchestra’s Official Storyteller, Narrator, and Host.

In 1999, Blake began immersing herself in the West African history-telling traditions of Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau under the tutelage of the esteemed Senegalese Jali (griot), the late Djimo Kouyate and later resuming her studies with Malian Virtuoso Yacouba Sissoko. Many of her performances employ traditional instruments such as the djembe, mbira, or the 21-string kora.

Storytelling Arts of Indiana’s mission is to enrich, connect, and entertain through the art and experience of storytelling. Storytelling Arts of Indiana continues to accomplish these goals by instilling the value of storytelling in everyday life. Help welcome the “Six-Triple Eight,” as told by Charlotte Blake Alston, to Indianapolis on Saturday, March 16, at 7 PM. The event will be held at the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center (450 W Ohio Street), 46202. Tickets are available for the live performance and live stream (virtual) events. The night will be filled with information and jubilation, with a question-and-answer session immediately following the performance.

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