Michael McCarty: Storyteller
Learn the Value of Storytelling
Michael D. McCarty says he was shy when he was a youngster. It’s hard to believe when you see him performing stories he has collected from his travels throughout world—listening, reading, and learning have brought him out of his shell to share his love of stories as a professional storyteller. Storytelling can play a valuable role in developing literacy, educating children about history, and exploring multiculturalism. Learn more from McCarty.
Michael, how did this love of stories develop?
Since I was 2 years old, my mother always read to me, classic fairytales and folktales, and told me stories about growing up in Barbados. In high school, I started learning about black history and culture and translated what I learned into stories to tell others. In 1992, I met some professional storytellers and learned I could make a living doing what I love. I’ve been running my mouth around the country and the world ever since.
What kinds of stories do you like to tell?
I started out specializing in African and African-American stories and history. I wanted to tell those little-known stories. Others might talk about Harriet Tubman. I tell the stories of Henry “Box” Brown [http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/brown_henry_box_ca_1815], who escaped slavery by hiding in a box that was shipped to Philadelphia, and William and Ellen Craft [http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-Great-Escape-From-Slavery-of-Ellen-and-William-Craft.html], who escaped to freedom by having Ellen, who was light-skinned, dress as a man taking “his” slave up north. Now, I also tell personal stories and multicultural stories—wherever I go, I look for stories.
What functions do stories perform?
Through stories we can communicate so much. Through stories we can teach. It is so much easier to communication via story because people remember stories. There’s a story I do called “The Song of the Slave,” and I have seen children six or eight years later, and they greet me with the last line of the story. One night my teenaged daughter came in at 2:30 a.m. thinking she was going to be yelled at. Instead, I sat her down and told her stories about dumb things I did and what I learned from them. Years later, when she was a teacher, I asked her to write about this incident: “He tricked me. I thought I was just listening to stories but I was learning about life.”
You are very involved with promoting literacy. Please tell us about that.
I’m a reader, and it was because of my mother’s love of books. She used to say that if you can read, you can do anything. I was working with a library in Los Angeles, I asked a boy who was a freshman in high school to read a children’s book. He could hardly read something like The Three Little Pigs. That was an eye opener. I started doing work with kids, especially so-called “at-risk” youth who act out in school to disguise their difficulties.
Storytelling in libraries promotes literacy because kids go check out books while they are there. I also do giveaway contests for children and adults during my performances. One parent said to me, “I brought my kids to see you years ago, and they had won books. Those children still have the books and cherish them.”
You can reach Michael through his website, HaveMouthWillRunIt.com. He happily accepts donations of books at 3500-189 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90305.