Storytelling school

Gibbs Presents Black Folk Oral Traditions at Utah Storytelling Festival

June 3, 2022

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Michelle Gibbs, assistant professor of theater arts at Illinois Wesleyan University, was among several storytellers and educators who presented at the annual Story Crossroads festival in Salt Lake County, Utah, last month.

The storytelling festival brought together 15 multicultural professional artists and more than 40 community members storytelling on stage. Bilingual and cultural artists combined the arts to present the stories to the public. The stories were told with an ancient technique while incorporating new approaches to these traditions.

The title of Gibbs’ lecture was “Memorializing the Folk: Uncovering Black Folk Oral Traditions in Zora Neale Hurston’s”.Their eyes looked at God.’”

IWU Assistant Professor of Theater Arts Michelle Gibbs, right, presented a talk at Annual Crossroads of Stories Festival on black folk oral traditions in the works of Zora Neale Hurston (left).

“I offered some ways to read and interpret Hurston’s groundbreaking novel about, among other things, gender and black folk subcultures, which encouraged audiences to see themselves and tell stories as a form relationship building,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said she designed the presentation with a high school audience in mind, but the themes of her speech are universal.

It has been an honor to introduce Hurston to a new generation of students who can see themselves in history and learn to appreciate such a rich and inspiring literary masterpiece,” she said. “This is a presentation for anyone who wants to learn more about Hurston, the black folk genre and subcultures, and/or the novel.”

A video of Gibbs’ presentation and other festival content is available at paid until June 15.

As a non-profit organization, Story Crossroads aims to bring together and unify people across generations and cultures to celebrate stories and promote creative communities that thrive through strengthened communication, preservation and empathy.

By Julia Perez