Telling a story of freedom

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 7, 2004

Whenever someone tells a story, those around the speaker usually tend to be quiet as they listen. Not on this day.

The children gathered around author and artist Lorenzo Pace at the Slavery and Civil War Museum were far from quiet. They shouted, clapped, sang, and danced to their hearts delight as Pace told the touching story of a young African slave.

“This is a journey,” Pace told the students. “We are going through this journey together.”

Email newsletter signup

Using hand-made West African musical instruments and mechanical toys, Pace acted out his book “Jalani and the Lock” and encouraged the children follow his lead.

The children-who arrived by vans and buses from schools across Dallas, Monroe, and Wilcox counties-came to the museum for the Children’s Sojourn, part of the weekend-long Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

The event was designed specifically for elementary school-age students to hear stories about African heritage.

Pace’s “Jalani and the Lock” was a story a young boy taken from his home in Africa and sent to America as a slave.

Pace said he wrote the book after his daughter, at age seven, asked if their family was descended from slaves.

“I wrote this book because yes, my daughter, we came from slaves,” Pace said. “But we have nothing to be ashamed about.”

At the end of his story, Pace had the students repeat several times the phrase “Never forget where we all, everybody, came from.”

Many of the students who attended the storytelling at Children’s Sojourn seemed to love the interaction with the author.

“I think (Pace) did a good job,” said Nigee Courtland, who attends McRae Learning Center. “He showed us that all slaves should be free.”

Another McRae student, Naadira Pettway, said she believes all black people should learn about their heritage.

“Everyone should also honor their mother, because if you don’t it could get you in a lot of trouble,” Pettway said, referring to a point in Pace’s story where the main character disobeys his mother.

Pace said he named the main character of his book “Jalani” after his own son.

“This book is about my family heritage,” Pace told the students.

Besides his writings and paintings, Pace is most famous for the monument he built in a African burial ground in New York City titled “Triumph of the Human Spirit.”

As the students left the museum, they all had bright smiles and eager faces. It was if they were inspired to tell a story of their own.