Griots have origins in the West African Mande empire of Mali, they were recognized as storytellers, musicians, praise singers and oral historians of their family units.
Griots were tasked with preserving the genealogies, historical narratives, and oral traditions of their people.
My Great Uncle Calvin was one of the Griots of my family – he knew who everybody was, where they lived and etc;
Years ago… He called and during our conversation I told him that I didn’t have the bandwidth to trace our roots and that I’d do it when I had more time.
And he snapped at me…
If he could have changed his hands into pure energy and pulled me through the phone, Unc would have.
“Shit nephew, what you got hands for if you ain’t gonna take the Torch?!”
And he waited for an answer.
“I got you Unc.” I repiled…
And with that he told me:
“Good, get this history while you can… Go get your notebook, I’ll wait.”
And he drilled down on the branches of the tree…
I scrawled on the pages – a bunch of names that I didn’t know at the time.
Years later, he called to ask me a question about his Great Grandparents, one that I quickly answered.
When I countered with a question of my own – he chuckled.
“Shit nephew, I’ve given you all that I got, this is all you...”
Shortly afterwards, he told me that he was going home…
“Keep finding our folks son or I’ll come back and haunt your ass.”
And we both laughed – until his lungs reminded him that laughter was not a luxury to be had, a couple months later, the cancer took one of the Giants of my life from this place.
And the grief imprisoned me in the Dark Places…
But, he warned me not to mourn him long because “this place ain’t our home” and it was those words that compelled me to my feet.
Besides, I didn’t want him haunting me…. Lol
I always remembered the hats that he wore whenever he shared a recollection.
So, in honor of my Unc, I began rocking the hat like the Griot before me, because whenever I wear the hat, it is a reminder of the duty I am entrusted with.