Lion King Kalif, the Griot Maasai- How the Gullah work the Story Continuum

Lion King Kalif, the Griot Maasai- Now That's Afropolitan Cosmic
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Children’s Author Kalif W. Price Pens Timeless Classic that Sings to Children in Percussion and Base from San Diego to the Tribes of Kenya

JAH JAH Books
Kalif W. Price with young fan Christian Howell at Awash Restaurant and Store in San Diego

Kalif W. Price with young fan Christian Howell at Awash Restaurant and Store in San Diego

Patrick A. Howell
A little over a year ago I donated few of my children’s books, Maasai Boy Heart of a Warrior, to My Chosen Vessels, a nonprofit organization that champions the cause for providing relief effort for the Maasai people in Kenya, Africa. My dream was always to have my book make its way to the Maasai tribe, but I never imaged that this might actually happen

The Gullah peoples of Georgia and South Carolina, have a rich legacy that is an exotic mix of Caribbean and American traditions. They are the descendants of enslaved Africans who lived in the low land regions of Georgia and South Carolina, including both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands. The Gullah enjoy a big though quiet reputation that has endeared them to artists as Julie Dash whose classic film Daughters of the Dust (1991) featured the timeless tale of three generations of Gullah women on the island of St. Helena. Then, there is George Gershwin’s "Porgy and Bess," (1935, New York:Alfred Publishing) and Zora Neale Huston’s 1937 classic "Their Eyes Were Watching God" (New York: Harper Perennial).

Kalif Price is classic Ghullah.

The first time I met Kalif W. Price, it was Sunday and we were in San Diego enjoying Ethiopian lunch with our families at a local store front and restaurant Awash. Now, Awash could have been magically transported from Addis Ababa with an authenticity and vibe that is one hundred konjo, but there was a powerful West African vibe coming from a corner of the restaurant amongst all of the Ethiopian natives who come to watch Sunday soccer, enjoy the injera, tibs and wat and relax. I noticed the regal and distinct brother, a supernova of positive energy realized, loving time with two adorable daughters and his wife. In my mind, though, the unbridled charisma, bold dreadlocks and massive frame reminded me of a lion having lunch with his pride. His beautiful daughters absolutely adored their father and his wife was content with a man as much protector as giver of life and joy.

But this is the power of spiritual obedience I am referring too. When we allow God in, anything is possible. I am living testament of that.

At the checkout, I let him know. “Beautiful family bro.” He radiated a million gigawatt smile and roared, “You too brother!” Sunshine glowed bright into the parlor and the energy flowed like that. King recognized king. He shared a book on the restaurant store front, told me he was the author and I had to buy it for my son. The book was titled, “Maasai Boy, Heart of a Warrior” and was beautifully illustrated by Vagabundo DeVaughn. He signed the book with the inscription, “Christian (future author) - Give thanks for the King God created you to be - Blessed Love, Kalif 2016” (a cool simple sun symbol drawn in) Like that, I knew we would work together because that is the point of business and life, doing work that blends the good with the great. We hooked it up for several weeks later and here is the results of our exchange:

Patrick A. Howell (PAH)- You are Gullah, right? Do you speak Guchee? Your stories, like Massai Boy, come organically from the tradition of the Griot. You are part of the continuum of a story that has told itself as long as the Ghaniain and Malian empires of the 1300’s. How does that tradition inform your work as an author?

Kalif W. Price (KWP)- Much of my relation to my Georgian culture was cut off and suspended early on when my mother and I migrated to California. It wasn’t until years later when I developed a strong desire to reclaim and recover much the history, knowledge, and culture of my family in the low country that I made consistent efforts to learn, appreciate, and understand all that I missed. I was a freshman in college and had a job loading vending trucks. I saved up enough money to purchase a plane ticket, rent a car and cover my expenses to spend a few weeks sitting humbly by the feet of my Georgian elders listening to their stories. It was through these stories that I learned about my family lineage and the culture of the region. This part of my discovery was also the moment that my latent potential as a storyteller became activated. The beauty of storytelling is that it connects to a much larger web in the oral African tradition.

A powerful coming of age story set in beautiful Kenya, Africa, about a young Maasai warrior who confronts what it means to be a man. Young Soli is in line to one day become chief of his village, but first he must prove his manhood by killing a lion. His father has equipped him with a spear, shield and the values of a warrior. Soli's mother reminds him that the ancestors will guide him along the way.

A powerful coming of age story set in beautiful Kenya, Africa, about a young Maasai warrior who confronts what it means to be a man. Young Soli is in line to one day become chief of his village, but first he must prove his manhood by killing a lion. His father has equipped him with a spear, shield and the values of a warrior. Soli's mother reminds him that the ancestors will guide him along the way.

www.mychosenvessels.com/faq.html

www.mychosenvessels.com/faq.html

Recently I have devoted most of my efforts to children’s book authorship. Reason being, children are the most impressionable and malleable. I truly know and believe that children are the future leaders of this world they soon will inherit, and the greatest method of instilling values that can shape a human-being to improve the suffering of the world is through children

PAH- King Kalif, you are also a musician and performer who works with our children, consistently. Those are further instruments of your work as a member of a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa. How do the ancestors, elders of the global cosmic system factor into your day to day? Into the art and discipline of your story telling? Which mode of story telling best suits your soul as a Griot? Writing and authoring? Performing and stage directing? Singing and composing?

KWP - Spiritual obedience is important to me. What I mean by that, is in order to share stories that resonate with, and have power to affect those in need, you have to prepare yourself as an obedient, disciplined, humble vessel for ancient stories from our ancestors and the Creator to move through you. It is truly a healing process for both the storyteller-author and the listening audience. I believe when you are gifted to reach an audience of people with your gift that it is your inherent responsibility to use that gift for the betterment of humanity. Sometimes improving humanity through stories is done through scrutinizing social commentary, which brings attention to social conditioning that is hard to digest or accept. I believe storytellers like Tupac were brilliant at this. In my case, enjoy utilizing all platforms of sharing stories, from playwriting, screenwriting, acting, directing, song writing, poetry and children books. Recently I have devoted most of my efforts to children’s book authorship. Reason being, children are the most impressionable and malleable. I truly know and believe that children are the future leaders of this world they will soon inherit, and the greatest method of instilling values that can shape a human-being to improve the suffering of the world is through children. So in short, I see writing children books as an investment that yields the biggest return. There is a dire need to offer literature of value to our children. As a teacher and mentor coordinator, I work with a population of inner-city children of color who are searching desperately for identity and purpose. When our children have negative cultural identification through their immediate environment and social media they soon act and behave accordingly. My goal is to reverse their cultural identification with positive images and stories that share carry strong principles and values. It doesn’t hurt also, that the author in my case is a 6 foot 3, 285 pound black man with a voice like James Earl Jones. I use this to my benefit in gaining their attention when I do storytelling events around town. I am aware that I don’t represent the typical children’s author, and I enjoy showing our children that we are not limited, but rather we are a people who limitless potential.

In March of 2016, I had the pleasure of adapting Maasai Boy into a stage play, which I directed and featured in. In was truly remarkable to see a sold out audience of children and families enjoy the visual spectacle of my book come to life. This all took place at the Lyceum Theatre in Downtown, San Diego, less than a mile away from a homeless shelter that my mother and I lived in. My mother was deep in her crack addiction at that time and we had succumbed to the poverty of the streets, eating from soup lines and scrapping around on the streets. It took a spirit of determination to stand tall on stage years later before an audience whose children who I inspire to educate themselves and develop positive self-images and beliefs. But this is the power of spiritual obedience I am referring too. When we allow God in anything is possible. I am living testament of that.

PAH- You recently had the opportunity to send you books to the Maasai book to the Maasai tribe in Africa. First was it Kenya OR Tanzania? How did that happen, what was the story there? The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress. How did one with the West African vibes, vibe so strongly with our East African brothers and cousins? Where in your soul, do you belief the Kalif Price soul originates? Maasai? Indigo? Mandinko? What do the spirits and ancestors communicate?

KWP- A little over a year ago I donated few of my children’s books, Maasai Boy Heart of a Warrior, to My Chosen Vessels, a nonprofit organization that champions the cause for providing relief effort for the Maasai people in Kenya, Africa. My dream was always to have my book make its way to the Maasai tribe, but I never imaged that this might actually happen. A few weeks ago I received notification from MCV that my books was taken to Maasailand, and has been circulating through the hands of each Maasai family and child. MCV is in the process of building the first Maasai school, of which classes are already in session, and my book is the only book in their library. This is doubly special for both the Maasai as well as myself, being that their first book holds beautiful and positive depictions of themselves. When I was informed about this and saw the accompanying pictures my eyes filled with tears of joy to see my dream come into fruition. And the beauty of this is that it doesn’t stop there. I am working with MCV and the Maasai Chief to have Maasai Boy Heart of a Warrior translated into their native tongue, Maa. We are in the process of launching a fundraiser so that all 160 Maasai youth can have their own copy of my book. Illiteracy among the Maasai is running rampant and in order to receive education in Kenya they have been forced to disown their culture, from the cutting of their dreadlocks which the warriors began growing during the beginning of their rites of passage in manhood, to their traditional talisman and attire. The Maasai school is being built on Maasailand directly besides the Chief Sontika’s home, which allows the Maasai to receive education while maintaining their cultural traditions. Chief Sontika along with the MCV are spearheading the plan to educate the Maasai people to protect them from illegal land appropriation and their increasing dependence on the industrialization of Kenyan government. Chief Sontika is quoted as saying, “The Maasai people love our traditional culture very much, but times are changing, and we are struggling to survive because we are uneducated.” As the Chief, Sontika understands the importance of cultural preservation and education. Educating Maasai girls is even more of a struggle. Maasai girls are responsible for fetching water from a watering hole that is a three mile journey away, which leaves no time for education. The Maasai school built on their land will offer the convenience and time necessary for girls to be educated. This has also inspired me to write the sequel to Maasai Boy Heart of a Warrior, entitled Maasai Girl. I am working close with MCV to acquire funding to provide every Maasai child with a copy of my book, which I plan to hand deliver to them and have a day of celebrating the art of storytelling.

www.mychosenvessels.com/multimedia.html

www.mychosenvessels.com/multimedia.html

www.mychosenvessels.com

www.mychosenvessels.com

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