Maryland Traditions Folklife Area
Mama Linda Goss & Dr. David Fakunle
African American storytelling
Baltimore and Laurel, Maryland
Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Program Team
photo credit: Edwin Remsberg Photographs
Master storyteller Mama Linda Goss is one of the foremost African American storyteller’s in the country. Co-founder of the National Association of Black Storytellers, she continues a tradition that extends across centuries and continents. Her performances encompass singing, call-and-response techniques, percussion, and even dance. With Mama Linda, it’s never just about the words. It’s about the audience listening to the sounds and rhythms, responding, and becoming part of the story themselves.
From her childhood in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee to her adulthood in Philadelphia and Baltimore, Mama Linda has immersed herself in storytelling. She carries in her mind the family stories of her youth, which she learned at the feet of her grandfather and parents. Mama Linda sees herself in the tradition of the griot, West African praise singers who are responsible for preserving oral traditions and maintaining social cohesion. “The griots used to be part of the king’s court,” Mama Linda says. “It was said they could tell such stories that they would make the king take off his clothes—they could take a story and render him naked.”
Dr. David Fakunle has apprenticed to Mama Linda over the past year. An experienced storyteller, percussionist, and second-generation Nigerian-American, David is also a public-health professional who has a vision to cultivate storytelling practices as part of substance abuse recovery programs. “Everyone has a story to tell, every story should be acknowledged, and there’s no more perfect storyteller for your story than you,” David says.