Community “Hair Stories” Storytelling Event

October 23, 2021 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm Newport Art Museum lawn

Join the RI Black Storytellers and Sankofa Community Connection for an afternoon of Art and Stories.

We all have a story to tell about our hair.

Whether it was that at-home perm, or when emerald green seemed an excellent color choice, the regrettable hair cut you gave yourself before school picture day, or in a word: bangs. Maybe your hair story is a reflection on losing your hair, or going gray, or the painful burns from a hair straightener. 

Perhaps your hair is an important symbol of your religious beliefs, cultural or gender identity. In Black culture, hair stories are important – they involve shared and distinct understandings of day-long salon visits, heating up hot combs, wash day routines, and barber shop debates. Black hair regimens and styles, though full of mystery and mystique to some, symbolize a means of connection and community. 

Share your hair story!

Get started with a story prompt and a visit to the “Hair Stories” exhibition. Spend time crafting your story with members of Rhode Island Black Storytellers. Create a work of visual art with Sankofa Community Connection inspired by the exhibition. Then, gather for an open mic sharing on the Museum lawn, interspersed with stories from the Rhode Island Black Storytellers.


Free admission to the Museum all day!
1 – 3 pm Story drafting and Art making
3 pm  Community Storytelling live event 

Be sure to dress for the weather and bring a blanket so you can settle in comfortably on the lawn.
Delicious apple cider and donuts will be available too!

Here are some prompts to get you thinking, but all hair stories are welcome. 

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your hair?
How does it feel to lose your hair?
Do you use unique homemade hair products? 
What does it mean to cut your hair?
What is your earliest or most impactful hair memory?
Describe a revelation you have had about your hair.
Does your hair define you? How?
​Has anyone ever asked to touch your hair or touched your hair without consent? How did this make you feel? ​
Have you been noticed for your hair? Was it positive or negative?
Do you have any established rituals with regards to your hair?

Have a great hair story but can’t make it to the event?
Click the Hair Stories logo below to share it! 

About our Collaborators and Storytellers

Rhode Island Black Storytellers (RIBS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the awareness, appreciation, and application of Black Storytelling in Rhode Island through performance, as well as through educational and cultural experiences. Throughout the year, the organization offers workshops in storytelling, writing, and related arts as a part of the development of the next generation of storytellers along with professional development workshops for those interested in enhancing cultural awareness, and improving their performances and communication skills. All these elements come together to create Funda Fest.

Marlon Carey is a multi talented artist who is always looking for ways to help build community and inspire people to make positive changes to the world. As a storyteller, he weaves an intricate tapestry with words, using a variety of methods with respect to the Storyteller traditions of old. He is a full-time father of three remarkable children and three cats.

Ramona Bass Kolobe,“The Watermelon Lady”, is a “story wheeler.” Miss Ramona brings her traditions of storytelling from her Jamaican and Native American ancestry together with her formal education to create works that open up the treasury of healing and understanding. Watermelon is a fruit of peace, friendship and sharing good times – all around the world!

V. Raffini, a self-made artist, actress, and teacher from the South Side of Providence has long been committed to the community, teaching Black History, and theatre, telling stories and nurturing the spiritual and creative abilities of youth.


Valerie Tutson has been telling stories in schools, churches, libraries, festivals and conferences since 1991. She draws her stories from around the world with an emphasis on African traditions. Her repertoire includes stories and songs she learned in her travels to South Africa, her experiences in West Africa, stories from African American history. In addition, she is gaining quite a reputation for her exciting retelling of age-old Bible stories. She graduated from Brown University with a Master’s Degree in Theatre Arts and a degree in a self-designed Major-Storytelling as A Communications Art. 

Sankofa Community Connection strives to disrupt inequalities and injustice within the Newport community and schools. Through their work, they continue to bring awareness, encouragement and education to empower community members that are not often heard. Their mission is to increase pride of place within the African American Community of Newport County through a community-led initiative with 3 main focus areas: 1. Community events and gatherings to increase our social cohesion, 2. Community Meetings to discuss the impact of institutional racism and racial oppression, promote dialogue and create solutions to the issues, and 3. Historical Education to reveal, honor and celebrate the cultural heritage of African Americans of early Newport.

Niko Merritt, Founding Director of Sankofa Community Connection, mother of 5, Community Activist & Organizer, Advocate, Public Historian, Certified Community Health Worker, Licensed Aesthetician, Salve Regina University Education Department Advisory Board Member, Owner of Melanin Sol Creations. This is an important time in our history, our current political climate, the increase in awareness and civic engagement combined with the overall feeling of wanting to do something to make things better- is all around us. It’s time to come together to make changes. Pretending we still don’t see won’t get us there. Talking without action won’t get us there. Let’s unite as a community, let’s have those difficult discussions and take it one step further- make changes to improve our situation for us and our children.

Presented with the support of: