Introducing The African American Folklorist, a New Series Airing on WKU Public Radio

Mar 23, 2021

Whether it's art, literature, bluegrass, blues, or any other cultural form, Black Kentuckians have had a hand in shaping it.

Now, a new series airing Saturdays at 9:35 a.m. ET/8:35 a.m. CT during Weekend Edition on WKU Public Radio is exploring that history.

Show host and WKU student Lamont Pearley said The African American Folklorist will be an opportunity to provide a look at the more personal side of culture.

"The thing with folklore, outside of history or entertainment, is we have an opportunity to honor, celebrate, and platform the auntie that lives next door that only three people know about this lady. But those three people, since they were born, she provided some cultural service," Pearley said.

Hear more from Pearley below:

What can we expect to hear Saturday mornings?

Pearley:
You can expect the story of the vernaculars, behaviors, people, tradition, heritage, and cultural exchange of, specifically, Black Kentuckians, as well as African Americans abroad.

Even though you're from New York, you have roots in the south, in the Delta region. I understand that led to your interest in Kentucky. Can you expand upon that?

Pearley:
In tracing my history, because of a couple of deaths and being reconnected to the blues, I began diving into the blues and I've been finding that every story of the beginning of Black culture starts in Mississippi, which of course having DNA there, that's not a bad thing. But when you do more research, you find out that a lot of the cultures there came from other places, and one of the places that are that is instrumental in the musical culture and heritage of Black folk is Kentucky.

What types of stories can we expect to hear on Saturday mornings?

Pearley:
You can hear about a blues musician, specifically Michael Gough, and his journey as a Kentucky blues man. Definitely the importance of, or not even just importance, the heritage and tradition of the barber shop industry in the Black community, as well as the the jug bands, literature, and even just vernacular.

The name "The African American Folklorist" stands out to me because this is a wide ranging show that talks about all the different Black contributions throughout history. I think about the term folklorist, especially in that title. That's not something you hear everyday, but it's something that I think really describes what this is, what does that term mean to you?

Pearley:
Well, to me folklorist, ethnographer, ethno-musicologist are intertwined. Folklore is more or less the the behaviors of the people, a folklorist studies that behavior, an ethnographer documents that behavior or tradition or expression, right? The African American Folklorist is specific because: one, whether we're Black Indian, whether we're literally from Africa, or wherever we are, if you've been here in this country, on the Americas for quite some time, or have a long lineage on this country, we're just automatically classified as African American. So, what I set out to do was create a space that all of the stories of the people that are classified as African American would be represented.

You can learn more about The African American Folklorist here.