FRIDAY, AUGUST 31: Melodye Micere Van Putten has racked up some impressive achievements in her 30 years as a poet, writer, educator and Africalogist.
Not least she was offered a personal invitation to speak at a women’s retreat in 2001 by Nontombi Naomi Tutu — the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and in 1989 she was named a Rising Star by Time magazine.
The former Presidential Fellow at Temple University has lectured in universities, consulted to school districts and designed community education programmes around African culture and history with the goal of developing self esteem, motivation and pride.
She is staging her first Neo Griot session at Chewstick tonight taking her audience on a poetic journey through the history and culture of Africa bringing us up to the current times and asking questions about our consciousness today.
She will be reading from three of her publications — Soul Poems: Life As Fertile Ground published in 2009, Obamatyme: Election Poetry (2009) which won the 2009 Best Book Award for Urban Poetry (USA Book News), and Sacred Thoughts: God Is The Light…and The Light Is All There Is published earlier this year.
Micere Van Putten told the Bermuda Sun: “We will be starting with libation which is the oldest cultural ritual that is practiced throughout Africa — it honours those who have gone before. That will definitely be a highlight and we will be taking a journey beginning from the most ancient cultural rituals, to the various things people invented.
“Then there is a poem dealing with the journey that we have made to the new world and the various things that have gone on since then. We are literally taking a poetic journey through the history and culture bringing us up to current times and asking questions about our consciousness today. Everything will come through poetic expressions and it will be very energetic, thought provoking as well as celebratory.”
Philadelphia-born Micere Van Putten received her BA and MA with coursework completed for a doctorate in African-American studies. She was certified in Multicultural Training and Education and is President of Black History Works Inc. —a non-profit organization dedicated to empowerment through knowledge of global African history and culture.
She has written over two dozen workbooks for children and adults and has published articles on history, spirituality and empowerment.
In 1997, she was a presenter at the Million Woman March and in 2001 was invited by Nontombi Naomi Tutu to speak at the Sister Soujourners Retreat in South Africa.
She recalls: “She and I met at Fisk University where she used to teach. She was very impressed with the work that I did with the university students and invited me back to do another programme — she said that she felt since the first time she met me she wanted my work to become international and so asked me to come to South Africa. The talk was about using history to be self-empowered — that is my constant message whether I’m talking to kindergarteners or university students or people in the community.”
In 1989, Time magazine ran a feature on the 20 top university juniors to highlight as rising stars and Micere Van Putten was one of them.
“There was a whole process you had to go through — you had to write an essay, you had to submit your college transcript, you had to have people write in on your behalf, and the personal essay had to talk about your vision for your life. Then as well as now my vision continues to use the history and culture of global people to inspire, to motivate, to empower — whether it be teaching teachers or writing curriculum.
“Since that time I have done any number of things I am very proud of. I just recently finished African Centre of Social Studies curriculum for a school in Philadelphia. It takes social studies and gives it an African centre with a global perspective and using that perspective to highlight and compare the experiences of people around the world. For example, if you look at the Australian history with the Aborigines, their story has many parallels to the story of Africans coming through the middle passage and dealing with enslavement and beyond. As I wrote that curriculum I could see parallels with various groups. I was able to embed all of those things in the curriculum.”
Micere Van Putten remains active in her work — she is continuing to do teacher training and curriculum work mainly in the States, and is currently working on a manuscript called Healing History. “Again that deals with ways to empower ourselves. It will be a narrative woven together with poetry so I anticipate that being published some time next year.”
• The opening act for the event is David O’Shea — a retired New York cab driver who tells amusing tales about his experiences on the roads. The performances will be streamed live at www.chewstick.org