Chairs In The Trees

Ages: 14 and upProducer: DLW Storyteller IncArtist: Donna Washington

If a friend asks you if he has bad breath, how will you respond? Will you be honest? Will you lie to spare his feelings? Or will you compose a clever reply? Politicians often find themselves in such a position. Donna Washington’s recrafting of a classic folktale for this CD’s first story, Kyar’s Minister of State, suggests: “Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all.”

Unlike the simple sage advice in the first story, the remaining stories reflect America’s current state of divisiveness and political acrimony.

The word CHAIRS in the CD’s title refers to Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention (before President Obama’s second election) when he talked to an empty chair as if Obama were seated there. The impact of that speech seemingly gave several communities permission to “lynch chairs in trees” to demonstrate their disdain for having a black president. Washington drove past a lynched chair several times while travelling to performances. Washington’s stories are personal accounts of insults and traumatic situations she endured because of her color. She calls these incidents the “craziest, most racist, bigoted nonsense coming out of the mouths of the citizens of this country–people who say really horrible things by justifying it as ‘free speech’–and people who think it is OK to be a racist and to denigrate others.”

This ends with a story that happened the day after Obama’s second election. A white woman got out of a long line at a restaurant and said to her, “Now we can go back to talking to each other again.” But Washington’s response was, “No—we don’t need to ‘go back’—instead we need to go forward to begin settling our misunderstandings.”

In a bold, stern, and unapologetic style, Donna Washington delivers these powerful messages:

When you encounter someone with a different mindset, engage them. You will learn something. We can’t solve problems if we are unwilling to discuss ideas with people who don’t always agree with us. And, until we can SEE each other, there is no way to REACH each other.


Dr. Flora Joy ©2020 Parents’ Choice

Flora has been described as a “founder” in the world of storytelling. The following are a few examples of programs or events that she began: (1) Storytelling World, an international journal for which Flora has continued to serve as editor since its first issue in the 1980s. This journal is currently part of NSN’s Storytelling Magazine. (2) The Annual Storytelling Resource Awards Program, (3) The National Storytelling Youth Olympics, and (4) The Master’s Degree Program in Storytelling at ETSU (where she taught for 41 years and is currently a Professor Emeritus). She has won many prestigious awards, including NSN’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

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