Friday, May 02, 2008

Campus guest discusses Creole culture

By Courtney Westlake

UIS Music hosted guest Dr. Sybil Kein, Creole scholar and composer on Friday, May 2. Kein presented a public lecture titled "Gumbo People: Celebrating and Teaching the Creole Culture of New Orleans," on Friday afternoon, which featured poetry, folklore and personal stories collected from Creole muscicians, entertainers and other historical and cultural figures.

Kein, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, is a recognized expert in Creole culture and history, as well as a musician, composer and poet. She has numerous books and CDs to her credit and recently served as a translator and dialect coach for the Screen Gems production Bolden, a film about early jazz in New Orleans.

Kein discussed where many beliefs about different races came about, and how various races were "assigned" a color at some point in time, such as black, red, yellow and white. People need to understand that many beliefs about race were invented in the beginning and are still fiction.

"The key word in all of this is 'folklore,' but it has stuck," Kein said.

Kein described her family tree dating back to her great-grandparents, with roots in the Jewish religion, France, Ireland and more. Multicultural is really the definition of Creole, Kein said.

"We have 17 million multicultural people in the United States. As Creole people in the culture and language, we are more than 55 million in the world," she said. "And one of the things I like about the news laws is that the law cannot tell you who you are. It's up to you to decide who you identify with in your ancestry. If you have that culture, that is a part of you."