the lion griot

The Lion Griot

In the ancient Mali and Senegal, the village griot was considered a master storyteller when he reached the age of forty and is thereafter named the Lion Griot. In the old Nubian culture the master storyteller had to have an elephant trunk as a trophy for his great talent at the age of forty-five. In the Good Old Man-Jah culture where I came from, you are anointed as a Lion Griot at thirty-five. On June 1st, 2016, I will be seventy-two, too old for elephant trunk trophy or for any lavish accolade, but lucky enough to have traveled extensively to gather my griot stories from around the world.

I have lived in Israel during the raging Yom Kippur War when Moshe Dayan and Golda Meier went at each other’s throat, one aggressively asking the military to penetrate beyond the Sinai and to push into Cairo, while the other calmly exercising caution. It was a time when the Shuttle Diplomacy was in full swing (with Kissinger running to Egypt to meet Anwar Sadat, then going back to the USA to meet Nixon, then returning to Jerusalem to consult with Golda Meier) while I was buried in an underground tunnel, trembling, frightened, and cursing the day when I chose to be a Lion Griot.

Then, by amazing serendipity, I got out of the underground tunnel and went to London, then to Toronto, then to Kingston (Jamaica), finally ended up smoking weed with Bob Marley and a bunch of other Rastafarians, getting high. In the later years I had the opportunity to travel to Madrid, Lisbon, Istanbul, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Cairo, Athens, Warsaw and Haiti, among others.

Every place I went, I entertained my listeners with my story of wars, tribal conflicts and religious fights. Everybody thought I was an amazing griot, most courageous and fascinating black man who had seen it all. Of course, I didn’t mention the part where I was actually holed up in an underground tunnel in Israel during the Yom Kippur war, scared like a chicken.

It has been over forty years since these incidents took place and I am still here.

And as an old griot, lucky enough to have traveled this far I bring the Story of the White Man, a story never been told in its entirety. I also bring, actually, the Story of Mother Africa.

But first, check out my gratitude to Americans. I salute the people of America who gave asylum to  millions of immigrants from around the world who escaped the endless persecution, war, hostility, poverty and religious conflict in their homelands. I share my sentiment about this great land from my own personal perspective. I have selected, out of hundreds, only seven magnificent stories of my own to applaud the people of America.

Thank you.

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