Sun, 15 February 2009
Long before Marvel Comics created Spiderman, a spiderman was created by the Ashanti tribe of western Africa. The frequent trickster (and sometimes victim of other animals' tricks) has appeared in many aliases, and in many other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Central America and the U.S. Sometimes he appears as a spider, sometimes a man, and sometimes both. In the Southern U.S., “he” sometimes turned into Aunt Nancy. In our story for this month, he retains his original name and gender, even though he has been transplanted to Jamaica, mon. And alas, it's another one of those cases (like “Anansi Goes Fishing”, which we're currently performing on tour) where he ends up on the short end of the storytellers' stick.
We thought an Anansi story would be particularly appropriate for Black History Month, otherwise known as February. (In Great Britain, it's celebrated in October.) The month, which was originally just a week, traces its roots back to 1926, when prominent historian Dr. Carter Woodson began crusading to remedy the way his fellow African-Americans had been neglected in the history books. February is also the anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment granting African-Americans the right to vote, and the swearing in of Hiram Revels as the first African-American member of the U.S. Senate. And February contains the birthday of the early civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois, who along with Dr. Woodson, helped found the NAACP in 1909—during, would you believe it, the month of February. And you thought this month was just for presidents, groundhogs and chocolate.
We come to you from Western Florida, a state in which we've been sojourning for the past couple of months. But we're on our way north and gradually back to the West Coast, to the region where we started. We hope you do your share of reading during Read Across America Week, the first week in March.
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