Kenna-Camara Cottman, the founder of Voice of Culture, kicks off the Cedar Cultural Center’s Griot Series, which is dedicated to West African storytelling. Cottman started the Voice of Culture in 2008 in an effort to continue the practice of West African drumming, dancing, singing, and storytelling that they learned from Patrice de Limos.
“Brother Patrice had moved back to Angola. And he said, ‘don't let it die, Kenna - keep it going,’ and so I began Voice of Culture with my children, other young people, and another wonderful human being by the name of Deja Joelle. Now, Voice of Culture has probably over 20 present and past members and we continue to practice our cultural arts in the name of Black liberation.”
Cottman says they worked with the Cedar Cultural Center to create the Griot series to help build access and engagement for the Black community.
“I'm all about creating Black spaces for Black people to do Black things. And while the Cedar is not a Black-led organization, I've seen so many iconic cultural performances there. I wanted to think about how to create more capacity on a night that may be underutilized and how to bring a different type of a vibe.”
Cottman says they found out about Kwanzaa in high school.
“Kwanzaa is like Wakanda. We created it, so it's real. One of the principles of Kwanzaa is Kouji Chakulia - self-determination. It's like an example of Black people creating the culture that we need to sustain us when this country America be trying to break us down. So I was overjoyed to add Kwanzaa to the cultural moment of the quote-unquote holidays.”
Cottman says the series is going to be centered around traditional Griot cultural arts, such as drumming, dancing, singing, and storytelling.
“That's what we Griots do. That's how we spend our time. The format is going to be mad circular. Don't expect to come to this event and just sit and watch and be passive. There's so many opportunities to engage and that's where the intersections will show us how we're connected and how we can grow and truly become more liberated. And I know that there will be so many beautiful manifestations as a result.”
The Cedar Cultural Center presents Voice of Culture, the Griot series, Kwanzaa 2022, on Monday, December 19, at 7:30pm at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. The series continues every 3rd Monday of the month. For more information, visit www.thecedar.org .