LAURINBURG — Three storytellers demonstrated on Thursday that every perspective must be shared in order to tell a true story.
The first of three “Stone Soup” storytelling events told the stories of race and integration in Scotland County.
“The stone soup theory is blending all the ingredients to come up with one great thing. It was blending up the cultures to come up with one community,” said Erin Rembert, executive director of the Storytelling and Arts Center of the Southeast. “The overall purpose was to tell the story of integration and share Scotland County’s history.”
Pennsylvania storyteller Kim Weitkamp spoke from a white person’s perspective, Lloyd Arneach of Cherokee spoke for the Lumbee population, and Tyris D. Jones of Scotland County spoke for the black community. Each teller’s stories were based on interviews with Scotland County residents who experienced integration firsthand.
The storytellers conducted their interviews to overturn stones and dig down to the nitty gritty of racism, but what they found surprised and enlightened them.
“What did we find, love, now it wasn’t all peaches and cream, but in Scotland County there were more good hearted people than there were evil hearted people,” said Weitkamp, who has traveled to Laurinburg regularly for the annual Storytelling Festival of Carolina.
“I was so intrigued by the Laurinburg Institute and the integration, so I kind of dabbled in it and then the former director wrote a grant to do this program and it grew from there.”
During the presentation, each storyteller took on three different personas: beginning as children then taking the voices of a teenager and an adult to give each perspective of life during integration in Scotland County.
Each story had a common denominator: prejudice is not an innate human characteristic.
“You know when children are born, they’re pure of heart, we didn’t see no color, all we saw was we wanted to play and have a good time,” said Jones.
All of the tellers’ childhood perspectives reflected that children don’t know anything until they are taught it. Taking on the voice of high school students, the storytellers stuck to presenting the good hearted citizens of Scotland County.
“My mom and dad taught me not to be ashamed of anybody that your friends with who was kind,” said Weitkamp. “They always told me it wasn’t the color of your skin that determines a human being, it is the quantity of kindness.”
Portraying a Scotland High School senior, Weitkamp delved into the dark side of integration in the county, which escalated to fights in the high school halls.
“Have you ever heard the sound of fist to face, it is an unnatural thing that God never intended anyone to hear,” she said. “One of the white boys had a chain.”
She spoke of black, white and Native American students all being locked in a classroom together while football players attacked each other in the hallway. Students were hospitalized that day, and the school made national television.
Then Arneach spoke for the Lumbee population, reflecting on the white struggle against integration.
“$31,000 was contributed by the county for an all white high school,” said Arneach during his final persona. “The county contributed that amount of money to keep their school integrated.”
Then Arneach spoke of riots that happened in Scotland County after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. He also talked about a native woman who slipped through the cracks and attended an all-white school. She graduated, went to college and then moved back to the community to teach what she had learned.
“Too many people look at the shell, a lot of people have been hurt, but still we’ve made progress,” he said. “Lets learn and continue.”
Thursday’s three storytellers portrayed integration as both a trying period for all who experienced it and the beginning of an era of reconciliation that is not yet complete.
“I’m not saying everything was peaches and cream, but I’m just saying life has been alright by me,” said Jones.
Stone Soup was funded by a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171.