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The American Griot Project Residency Program - Because Your Story Matters

Looking for a way to make history come to life for your students? 


Oral history, communications, and creative writing come together in The American Griot Project, an empowering arts-based curriculum that honors the stories of those who have previously been silenced. This program allows RAC educators to instruct students in interview skills, historical research, poetic craft, and dramatic interpretation.

CASA HairStories.jpg

The American Griot Residency Program at Capital Area School for the Arts. RAC founders Maria James-Thiaw and Janet Bixler taught students interview skills and led performance and poetry writing workshops. This poem, written by Samira Moussa (front) is about her "griot's" feelings about her natural African hair. The students chose the topic for this residency: HairStories.

The original theme for the American Griot Project was "women of the Jim Crow era." Poet, Maria James-Thiaw, founder of Reclaim Artist Collective, interviewed a variety of phenomenal women (griots) about their memories and contributions to the movement. The women ranged in ages from 65 to 95 and were Christian, Jewish, black, and white.  We refer to our storytellers as "griots," in the West African tradition, because griots keep the history of a people and tell their stories using poetry and music.


James-Thiaw says, "Remembering their sacrifices can help us appreciate the freedoms we enjoy and give us the strength to stand up for justice in these difficult times."


The Choreopoem

The research and writing culminated in the production of an award-winning choreopoem, or play in poetic form, called Reclaiming My Time: An American Griot Project. Check out rehearsal and performance photos here.


It's Your Time

Your school group or organization can experience the inspiration of oral history and creativity through an American Griot Project residency. Students walk away with newfound writing and presentation skills and a greater appreciation for history. In addition, we may be able to bring Reclaiming My Time to your black box theatre or thrust stage.


For pricing and to set up a residency for your school or organization, contact today. 

Oral History

After picking a theme, students can speak to our volunteer griots or find their own. We teach interview skills, and one on one communication techniques that make their interviews more effective.


Through innovative writing workshops, students learn to translate the stories they have heard into poetry using elements of literary craft like metaphor, symbol, imagery, and musicality.



Students improve their oral communication skills and dramatic performance techniques while preparing to share their work with an audience of their peers, parents, or community.


I left New Orleans in the trunk of a car, after days of pickin' at Ol' Jim Crow..."


Actors perform "The Trunk," the poem inspired by the griot, Mary James. 

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