Color Me Courage, Color Me Kind

Color Me Courage, Color Me Kind

Isabella R Santoro

Ramona Bass Kolobe, also known as The Watermelon Lady to those who know her, is a wonderful “story wheeler” who is a founding member of an amazing non-profit organization called Rhode Island Black Storytellers, and it started all in her kitchen some 26 years ago. Their mission is to promote the awareness, appreciation, and application of black storytelling in Rhode Island. Within their organization, they use a wide array of different methods to tell stories. Spoken word poets, storytellers, dancers, visual artists, and those who perform improv with comedic elements are all part of this great organization. This organization works with people of all demographics, and everyone is encouraged to be involved.

Ramona Bass Kolobe attended Brown University for her undergraduate degree in Theater and went on to receive a master’s in teaching English. She also went on to pursue Doctoral studies in Anthropology. As a dancer and visual artist, she works to bring cultural enlightenment through the programs she shares with others. Ramona is a Co-Administrator of the Langston Hughes Estate with the responsibility of ensuring and promoting the legacy of words he has gifted to the world. In 2023, she was crowned the first Queen of PRONK!, which is a people’s movement and music festival dedicated to standing up for equal rights for all. Just this year, Ramona was awarded the Living Legacy Award from the Nonviolence Institute which is given to an individual continuing the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who was committed to growing cultural understanding and positive, nonviolent living. Ramona is also a founding member of Rites and Reason Theatre/Africana Studies at Brown University and worked together with George Houston Bass, her late husband. She took part in the 1968 Black student walkout at Brown that led to the increased hiring of Black faculty and admission of more Black students.

The event, Color Me Courage, Color Me Kind, held on March 3rd at the Greenville Public Library was a success, with all types of people participating. Ramona, a presenter at this event, was able to speak on her experience as a Black woman and she also helped to lead this program in other aspects. The audience was able to weave through numerous forums, sharing encouragement on how to be brave and to be kind. They really encouraged a large scope of storytelling and lessons learned that would bring people together, no matter who they are.

People of many ages were able to attend this event and Ramona says that she and many others had “a real ball.” Everyone left feeling very refreshed and happy. Some said they felt so much calmer after the program. This event and future ones just like it are a must see for those interested in storytelling and culture through many different lenses.

The word materials and artifacts in the show explored many ways that stories bring people together with lessons that foster peaceful living. Ramona encouraged folks to check out books such as works written by Langston Hughes such as The Weary Blues, a collection of poems. You can check out their website for events to come and some very exciting information about their new legacy program! Check them out at ribsfest.org.

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