Teacher: Mr. Thomas
Students were asked to choose one of the medieval African Empires we studied and incorporate those details into their stories. They viewed modern day griots through video to assist with the griot format. Students needed to be sure their stories explain important terminology, discusses impact of Islamic religion on Africa, and correctly construct their story in a traditional African Griot format.  Typically, students would perform these stories live in the classroom, but due to our current distance learning format, we struggled to have everyone load their videos with the processing issues we experienced early on.  Therefore, students submitted written versions of their stories instead of a standard presentation format. Our students rose to this challenge during our first weeks of distance learning.   Below are examples of student work:

Student sample 1:

I am a griot named Mosi, the first born of my family from the Ghana empire. Today I will tell you a tale of a young African man of the Ghana empire. He was around 22 when the biggest day of his life happened to him. The King Dinga Cisse had heard many things about this boy as a child growing up. The first time the boy had seen the king he was 7 years old. He had always wanted to become great like a king. So when the king finally heard of him being an adult he quickly capitalized on it. He went to the man’s house and said, “would you like to become my advisor and heir to the throne Rutendo the believing?” Rutendo said, “Of course, but why would you come to a boy of a farming family in Ghana to be your heir?” I have seen something in you ever since I first saw you as a young child. “Now, gather your things as we will head to the palace in one hour,” said Dinga Cisse. Ruetendo could barely believe the king had asked him to be his heir. He then went to the palace with the king where he was fed and kept for until his time would come. While the king was still doing his duties, he showed Rutendo how to run the empire. First he showed Rutendo the trade routes and how they were key to the success of the empire. Then he showed him easy ways to make money by taxing travelers as they came in and out, such as we still do today. Last but not least, he showed him how they had accepted Islam, but he knew about this because he had grown up around the religion. So a little later, it was time for the hunters to go hunt for the food of the feast they are having tonight to welcome Rutendo. With music and dances to go with it. But first the king said, “you shall go with our lead hunter and see what the lands you will one day rule will look like.” Rutendo was the happiest person alive when he heard that and he went with the hunters. While with the hunters he learned about how the land was a good place to raise animals and hunt. He did also learn though that uneven rains and high temperatures occur in the climate of the empire, and he learned that this causes struggle for certain crops to grow.  He then came home and had his welcoming feast that the hunters had provided with the antelopes they had killed. Then he went to the king the next morning and said, “I was thinking about what you were saying about the trading. I was wondering “what do we trade?” The king said, “Rutendo we have many things in this beautiful empire including salt, gold, iron, animals, and more.” Runtendo understood and kept on learning. Throughout the years Rutendo slowly understood more lessons from the king, and then his day finally came and he became the King of the Ghana empire.

 

Student Sample2

I am a griot named brushy,I am from the Mali empire here to tell you a story. Once upon a time a man in Mali was trying to grow corn,but the soil was not rich in nutrients because the empire before Mali had farmed it for many years. The man did not think this was the problem. So, one night he went to a local mosque and prayed to Allah and asked why his corn couldn’t  grow. Allah was filled with laughter  that he asked such a question because back in the day if you had a problem growing something you needed to grow something different.  After the man went to the Mosque everyday asking the same question Allah sent 16 chickens to his farming land that could not grow corn. The man thought that Allah had sent them because they were going to grow the corn for him ( plow, plant and collect the crops at the end of the season. ) The man ran inside his house after seeing the chickens and told his mama that he had chickens to do his crops for his. 

His mama said,” When the chicken is in the corn, the corn can’t grow.” 

The man replied,” Why did Allah give me the chickens.”

His mama said,” Son you must give up growing corn, I am sure Allah wants you to harvest chicken eggs.” 

The man then fed the chickens and left them in the field because he had did what he had to do you know.  The man’s corn was not growing   ,so he decided not to listen to his mama and go to see  Mansa Musa (  the great king at the time.)  It took the man many days to see the king. It was very hard for the man to see the king  ,but he finally got to see him. The king went for a swim in the Senegal river without telling anyone  one night and the man was on the bank of the river.  Then a big crocodile came out of water ,so the man jumped in and rushed the king to shore. The king wanted to know how he could repay the man. Then the man told him about how he needed help because his chickens were in the corn and the corn could not grow. 

The king said,” Oh you need to not grow corn and harvest chicken.’’

The man replied,” I should have listened to my mama and harvested chicken, now I have now food or money.”

The king reached into the pockets of his  trousers and grabbed a large piece of gold and handed it to the man.

The king said,” this can help.” 

Then he left to go back to house and while he was going home he sang,

“ Chicken in the corn, the corn can’t grow ,mama ahah.”

When the man got home he went and sang to his mama,“ Chicken in the corn, the corn can’t grow ,mama ahah.”

   From that day on he decided to listen to his mama and  use his common sense rather than have crazy ideas.

 

Student Sample 3: 

People hear me now for I have a tale worth while. This is a tale for young and old, for all can learn this valuable lesson. There was once a time when the land thrived with riches beyond one’s imagination. We were happy and healthy and we all got along. We were able to share and be free. However our good days were over when the evil tyrant had taken over. He took all of the peoples riches for himself and left the people in dire need of food and water. It was hot and we could barely get any water.  We could not trade for it for we had nothing to trade. 

One day while the tyrant was counting his money, a little old man had come to visit him. He told the strange man to come in and state his needs. 

“The gods had told me they are unhappy with your rule,” he said, “ they told me you need to become more selfless.”

“Why should I listen to a little old man like you? You are beneath me,” He replied.

“Listen closely, you only have three days, if you choose not to accept this offer you will be killed by Amma himself.”

“GARDS KILL THIS MAN AT ONCE!” yelled the tyrant in pure anger. 

Three days passed and he still hadn’t cleaned up his act. When he was counting his money a large flash of light had come from the corner of his room and he quickly turned to look. There sat the little old man.  

“W-what are you doing here?” trembled  the tyrant, “I thought I killed you.”

“I gave you three days and now your time is up.”

“Please, I’ll step down from the throne and give it to the most selfless person in the empire.”

“No, you were asked to become less selfish and choose not to listen.”, he said “Here… you die.”

Listen now for the tale has come to an end. Think about this story and the lesson it foretold. 

 

Student Sample 4:

My name is Tsotetsi Pampoen and I have an interesting story for you today. This story is about Kaya Maghan and how he messed up. He was the leader of Ghana and they had so many advantages in geography and so many other things. His kingdom was right by the ocean so they had a lot of boats coming in for trade. They had rainforests and some deserts. It was almost always hot there. But  they really didn’t have any disadvantages. So this made them think they were the best which they kinda were but they thought too highly of themselves. So one day the Kaya took too much gold out of the mines and he thought it would be just fine. He wanted it just so he could have that much more gold than the other kingdoms. They knew they had to do something about it because they would just search for more mines and take their´s if they had to. So they went out and disguised the mine so they felt more safe that they wouldn’t take all the gold from them. Since Kaya always had his advantages over everyone he never really had to be smart so the other kingdoms knew their gold mines would be safe for a while. Kaya soon realized his mines were dry of gold but he wasn’t that sad because he had iron and salt. He had a huge army and they were the best armed because they had iron weapons so they were always ahead of the game. Since they had all iron weapons the other kingdoms never thought to conquer Ghana. They were the crossroads of trade so even if they didn’t have gold they would always have a way to stay wealthy. One day Kaya ran out of gold chunks and was very mad so he went on a rant. He took his huge army to every neighboring kingdom around and demanded all their gold. Since they were scared and outnumbered they gave all their gold to them. Since they were running out of money they all came together and decided they need to become a team and take down Ghana. They waited for the best time and moved in. They fought for two days and the other kingdoms came out victorious. They got all their gold back and more. They split the land and all of them were a big part of the crossroads of trade. The moral of the story is don’t be so great and be grateful for what you have or it will come back to get you.

Student Sample 5: 

My name is Yoki and I am the only one in my family that is a griot as everyone else was born in Ghana. I am the oldest one and I have seen it all. We live near the desert so the temperature is very warm. Right now I am going to the slaughter house to get some meat for my family and on my way there I am going to tell you a story about a little boy named Kambine Diaresso. This boy is our leader. But he started off pretty easy because his dad was the king but after a big army came in slaughtered his dad. Kambine Diaresso and his mother have been forced out of the kingdom by his brother Kuki Diaresso. They left and started working as slaves for Mali. They were so confused about how to do all the things they were told to do because they have never worked a day in their life. After a few years Kambine Diaresso’s life was getting better until his mother died. She had died peacefully in their little cottage. He was so lost without her and her amazing spirit and advice. He suddenly had the cloud of rage and got together will all the other slaves and had a riot charge Ghana and try to take it over once again. The plan was to take out the king and then they were have power over everyone again because the king could not tell them what to do. They snuck inside the castle and started tering the place apart until they found the king asleep in his room and Kambine Diaresso took one look at his brother and relized he could’nt do it. So all the slaves were going to threaten the king. They threw him to the wall and told him if they did not make Kambine Diaresso king again or they were going to kill him and they king was outnumber so he maded Kambine Diaresso king again. But Kambine Diaresso felt sad because his bother just wanted to feel loved by the people so he made a agreement with him. He told him he would make him the military leader so they could share the spotlgiht and Kambine Diaresso

Family felt compelte again.

 

Student Sample 6:

Hello, my name is Abioye, I am a famous griot, I am here to tell a story of a young boy named Adisa. Adisa was a trader, he was constantly going through the Sahara desert for trade purposes. Adisa had been given a special request from the king one evening. The king asked Adisa to go to the Berbers and get a ton of salt. So Adisa listened, he went to get some gold and then went on his way across the Sahara. What Adisa didn’t know is that it was a setup because of what Adisa had done earlier in the year. Adisa had taken salt for himself and didn’t deliver it all to the king. The king didn’t like this so he decided he would get rid of Adisa. The trip across the Sahara was the way he was going to kill him, Adisa outsmarted the king. The king told Adisa the wrong way to the Berbers, if Adisa wasn’t an experienced trader, he would’ve went the wrong way. Adisa went the right way to the Berbers. When he got there, he told them about how the king tried to set him up. The Berbers liked Adisa, so they were not happy to hear this. The Berbers were about loyalty, so they asked the king of Ghana if they could give him a good amount of salt and Adisa could stay with the Berbers because they knew if he came back, he would be killed. The king agreed to this deal. Adisa continued his life as a trader for the Berbers and many children looked up to his as a second father figure. In his free time he entertained children and taught Berber people about Ghanainan rituals and dances.

 

Student Sample #7:

 

Abedi and the Lost Salt

 

(Start with drumming on oatmeal containers that are painted with African designs, and have the audience clap along.)

My name is Abby and I would like to tell you the story of Abedi and the Lost Salt, which my Grandfather told my father, who passed it down to me.

 

Abedi looked outside into the tropical grasslands of the savanna and saw some common African animals including giraffes, zebras, lions and hyenas.  He also saw some people coming out of the mosque. Off in the distance, he heard some villagers playing the drums while they were dancing.  He was thinking of the King, Sundiata Keita who would not tell anyone where the closest salt mine in Africa was.

He needed to get some salt to preserve the family’s meat before it would go bad.  So Abedi wanted to put on his Father’s sewn pants, but his Father said, “No Abedi, you may not wear my trousers.  They were given to me for serving 7 years in the military.  Those trousers are the highest honor that the king gives to his subjects.  So, Abedi dressed himself in his own wrapped clothes. He grabbed a little gold dust and put it in his pail and then climbed up on Feechi, his camel, so he could start off on his journey to trade for some salt.

They traveled for 2 miles through the hot, dry climate of the savanna.  It hadn’t rained for months.  Suddenly Abedi saw an oasis and he quickly grabbed his pail and jumped off the camel and ran to the water to get a drink.  But while he was just getting back on Feechie to keep going, he saw a merchant. He jumped off Feechie screaming   “Me!  Me! I want some salt!” but the merchant said “Oh I am so sorry, I only have Kente cloth.”  “ Oh…” mumbled Abedi who was disappointed.

So he rode on through the savanna and got one mile further until he saw a second merchant, so he jumped off Feechie screaming “Me!  Me! I want some salt!” but the merchant said “ Oh I am so sorry but I do not have any salt, I only have wood carvings and wooden bowls.”

By now, Abedi was far from home and still NO salt!  He started getting worried that he would have to tell his Father that he did not find any salt.  So he turned around and went home.  Back through the tall, grassy patch where all the growling, baby lion cubs were.  Back past the oasis.

And then…when he passed the tree that had a lion shaped face on it, he saw a wise, old man named Bahati carrying a pail and yelling “Salt! Salt!  Anyone? Trade for a pinch of gold dust!”  At that moment Abedi jumped off Feechi and ran to Bahati screaming, “Me!  Me! I want some salt!”  Bahati says “Geesh!  Calm down young fellow.  I will getcha some salt.  Got any gold?”  Abedi held out his pail, and he suddenly realized that he had accidentally dumped the gold dust out of his pail when he got the water from the oasis.  “No, I don’t.  Why do I have to be so foolish?” yelled Abedi and stomped away.  Until…he heard Bahati say, “Wait!  Is there a reason why you are so mad young man?”  “Yes!  I need salt and I don’t have any! My Father told me to get salt before our meat goes bad!”  “Well…?” stumbled Bahati.  “Ahh!  How would you feel if I gave you some salt now?  But will you give me some of your meat?”  “Yes!  I will!” yelled Abedi.  “Okay we got ourselves a deal!”  Then Abedi quickly asks, “Wait…?  You live only a half mile away from the oasis.  I can just give some to you tomorrow, right?”  “Sure, that will work!”  Then Abedi went home and did not forget an extra pail again!  His Father told him, “From now on son, think before you drink”!

Student Sample #8: 

My name is Shambala the famous griot and I am here to tell you about a merchant who traveled across the Sahara. The merchant’s name was Amare, and he did all he could to get gold for his family. One of his jobs was being a merchant even though it was a hard and risky job he did whatever he could. He was told that he was taking salt across the Sahara and through Ghana to trade for gold. All he had was a Camel to carry everything. He took off for his long journey from North Africa with everything he needed. He got half way through the Sahara and he got tired so he looked around to see where he was and then took a nap, when he got up the winds had shifted everything so he didn’t know where he was. All he had was salt and just enough food to get to Ghana and back. He didn’t give up though he kept searching and searching until 48 hours later he found a town and he asked where Ghana was, he said he was Ghana Bassi and that he was the leader of Ghana. Amare told him what happened and Ghana Bassi gave him a lot of gold for the salt and let him go. Once he got back he told his story and helped out his family with the gold.

The End

Student Sample #9:

Once, there was a man who lived in Ghana with the tropical climate. Like most people, he believed in Islam, which was taking over 75% of the religions in Africa. This man was one of the richest people besides the king to live in Ghana. He was so rich that he had 10 gold collars for his dogs and had gold sprinkled on all the food he ate. He even had gold tools and armour, nobody liked him because of that. One day, a lion named Aslan broke into the kingdom, but surprisingly he was not attacking the people. Soon or later the man realized he was heading toward Musa the leader. The man then geared up in his armour and grabbed his sword and headed up to Musa. As he arrived, he saw both of the guards dead with claw marks and blood all over them. “Ahhhhhh! “ screamed Musa. “ How dare you kill my son! ” said Aslan. Aslan had Musa cornered and was ready to kill him. Just before he was ready to pounce, the man stabbed the lion right in the back with his sword. Aslan let out a loud roar before falling right onto the ground. “ You saved my life, “ said Musa. That night, the whole city had a party with traditional dancing and music. Musa then said, “ Here is the hero of Ghana, “ holding the man’s hand up in the air.

 

Student Sample #10:

Once Upon a Time there was a boy  his name was Sundiata Keita. And he was taken from his parents at age 5  ½. The king of Mali was in search for his son so he had soldiers take any five and a half year old boy to the Palace and they had to be slaves until they were old enough to be ruler.  So then they started to hed to Mali. Well on their way to the kingdom of Mali they had to walk through a very dry deserts where a group of knights from another kingdom came and attacked all the boys and the soldiers so all the boys left and ran free.  so then the soldiers had to search and it took them five years to find Sundiata once they found him they brought him to Mali without being attacked but little did he know that he was the King’s son that was stolen. Once they took him as a slave he grew up and then they they realized how much he looked like the king. so then they ask him the boy questions and the boy answered all of them and they found out that he was the king stolen son. Once they found out he was the king stolen son he told the king who took him they found them they beheaded them. And then Sundiata got to live with his actual mother and father father for the rest of his father’s life.  Sundiata father was so happy to have found him again. Then his son Sundiata became ruler when his father died. And he was a great ruler.  the end.