T-Dot Griots: An Anthology Of Toronto's Black Storytellers edited by Karen Richardson and Steven Green (Mustardseed/Trafford), 181 pages, $24.50 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
T-dot Griots presents a range of powerful black Canadian literary voices, each of whom resides or has roots in the greater Toronto area.
The 50 writers range in age from nine to 55, and their subjects are just as diverse. They draw from the gritty streets of the metropolis and the suburban havens surrounding the city, showing our town's multifarious personalities and cultural distinctions. The anthology gives voice to Africans who have reached Toronto by way of the middle passage and through the Caribbean as well as African immigrants.
T-Dot Griots highlights the cultural, political and social aspects of Afro-Toronto with no apologies. Frustration over racial profiling, the struggle for acceptance, the beauty of black love and the lessons of African history - all are expressed through spoken-word poetry, hiphop lyrics, theatrical excerpts, short fiction, visual art and journalistic essays.
Poetry is the most heavily represented art form here, and its subjects range from love to history to cultural identity. Fluid flows by hiphop artists Motion and Kamau splash rhythm on the page. Travis Blackman, Cheryl "Nneka" Hazell and nah-ee-lah bring the black experience to life, spewing lyrical lava from the deep pain of racism.
More than an arbitrary collection, T-Dot Griots is strung together on the theme of storytelling. Griots are African storytellers/historians. Co-editor Steven Green explains the word and discusses the controversy surrounding the term in his introduction. Afua Cooper 's foreword explores the relationship between modern and ancient griots and their importance to the African community.
For the writers and readers, the book is a chance for reunification and re-memberance. Its diverse styles and experiences reflect the meaning of the name "Toronto" - the meeting place.
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