African Diasporic Orature and Blogging



(Original painting by Fave of the characters in Yanni’s Block)

I am not well versed in the language of computer lingo and although at times it was difficult to decipher some of Harrell’s connections, I was still fascinated by his linkage of the GRIOT System to the African diasporic tradition of orature. In the past, the usage of orality was seem as primitive and not scholarly. Harrell manages to combine these two seemingly unrelated  elements and orchestrate his essay in way that even a non tech-savvy person like me could understand the correlation between the two.

I was especially pleased with the use of Ngugi’s theory that “African orature need not stand in an hierarchical relationship to literature” because I feel that the same could be said of the blogging phenomenon.  A relatively new style of writing, blogging is slowly becoming an accepted medium of communication that represents language. Although in written form, a personal blog can be similar to relaying a story orally but it has a greater reach by being present online. Blogging also utilizes the “call and response” method by incorporating the ability for others to comment on the story being told. The highest ranked bloggers typically have hundreds of comments on any given post and their readers are invested in returning for more of the same type of stories. Similar to what Harell stated, blogging can also “become(s) something like a communal and improvisational stance” on writing.


The picture I have shared above this paragraph is that of four African American and Caribbean bloggers who chose to write a collective and continuing piece of online blogging literature called “Yanni’s Block”. Although the website is now closed, from 2005-2008, Yanni’s Block was one of the most popular sites among Black bloggers. Each week, you could receive a different perspective on the same story and it was very interactive with the authors who consistently utilized the ideas and concepts gained from their readers comments. The rise of the internet led to this collaboration as all of the authors were located in different parts of the country. As the main picture  of this post indicates, other forms of art were also produced for this affiliation. In addition to visual art such as paintings and cartoon images, I personally made musical mixtapes to accompany the site’s objective. The inherent nature of  African diasporic orature combined with the new medium of blogging clearly led to the possibility of this project.

I have included below a screenshot of what the website used to look like.



One comment

  1. I found it interesting that you pointed out what I would call as the interdisciplinary nature of Black oration. A combination of spoken word, art music, etc. The open forum of blogging it a perfect place for the propagation of this process, keeping and open forum the creative can explore creative mediums while not being governed by the patriarchy of other conventional artist forums.

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