Happenings Lifestyle Reader Contributed

Gertrude Blanks Storytelling Event Taking Place in West Hartford

Gertrude Blanks. Courtesy image

The Gertrude Blanks storytelling event will be held in West Hartford on June 13, at 6:30 p.m.


On Tuesday, June 13 at 6:30 p.m. at First Church West Hartford, 12 South Main St., Gertrude Blanks’ contributions to the community will be celebrated by keeping storytelling alive.

Neighbors, including Andre Keitt, Mike Keo, and Keren Prescott, will share their stories of life-changing experiences. The event is free. Registration is encouraged but not required. Register here.

The West Hartford community and the Public Library are proud to claim Gertrude as one of its own and a daughter who will always have a home at our Library, especially on the Library wall mural where her picture is depicted among West Hartford’s other two Town prominent Black women “firsts”: former Town Councilperson Judy Casperson and state Rep. Tammy Exum.

West Hartford Library Director Laura Irmscher says, “We are looking forward to hosting this second annual program to honor Gertrude and celebrate the art of storytelling with three captivating performers.”

Blanks was born in Baltimore, MD and moved to Hartford, CT as a young child in the early 1920s. She lived with her grandparents on Pliny Street, while her mother worked as a domestic in a West Hartford home. Blanks attended Arsenal School. When her grandfather passed and she had to move in with her mother in the West Hartford home she tended to, Blanks attended Hall High School (class of 1938).

Storytelling became her special time with her mother and a way to feel connected to her people and her history. She developed her gift of storytelling and worked at the Hartford Public Library for more than 20 years facilitating story times and continuing that tradition with many schools and organizations seeking her services until her late years of life. She was an inspiration for the many poets and storytellers that followed her legacy. “Mama Blanks,” as she was known, was a former Hartford librarian who made the telling of her stories come to life for many youngsters and adults in the West Hartford and greater Hartford communities through this rich oral tradition.

About the Storytellers

Andre Keitt

Andre Keitt has been storytelling for over two decades, spinning from a list of over 30 story programs he created from his love of reading about Africans, African Americans, Dinosaurs and Spooky stuff. Andre is known for telling stories cooked up by his grandmother Martha Greatheart Thompson, his beloved “Mama Thompson,” who told stories about her village. He is also an independent freelance speaker, drama teacher/coach, and program facilitator/coordinator.

Mike Keo

Mike Keo is a storyteller, public speaker, and photographer who weaves personal and community narratives to create a local dialogue on equity, inclusion, anti-racism, and collaboration. He is the founder of #IAMNOTAVIRUS, a co-op that highlighted Asian American stories across the diaspora and successfully advocated for the No Hate Act. He currently serves on Governor Lamont’s Hate Advisory Crimes Council and was recognized as 40 Under 40 for the CT Class of 2023.

Keren Prescott

Keren Prescott is a mother of three beautiful Black babies (Jaden, Johnny, and Jordyn), an activist, advocate, organizer, business owner, author, survivor, Multiple Sclerosis warrior, and a La Salle University alum with a degree in psychology. She is a powerful yet soft Black woman! Keren started her activism in Manchester, CT, first with advocating for her Black children and other Black and Brown children in the Manchester public school system. Keren is the founder of POWERUP – Manchester  (one of many branches of PowerUp CT), started days after the murder of George Floyd to call attention not just to his murder but also to systemic racism through the U.S., Connecticut, and right in Manchester.

Registration is encouraged, but not required.

To register for this program, please go to: www.westhartfordlibrary.org.

This program is generously supported by the Thomas F. Kilfoil Memorial Bequest, West Hartford Library Foundation.

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