PhillyFolk Artists

Paul D. Best “Our Sun Paul”

Storytelling & Photography

Paul D. Best learned the art form of Black Storytelling as a child growing up in Gary, Indiana from his father and his uncles. Whenever they would gather, they would tell stories about growing up in the South, and moving up North, being a part of the Great Migration. By listening intently, he became the child in the family who remembered everything. As he got older, he would retain family stories and began crafting stories from his own experiences. Keeping a camera handy, he would take a photo of each moment he had with family or friends to help remember the story.

After becoming a full-time artist, he traveled the world photographing people, events, and nature, which led to more and more stories, accompanying each journey. He soon began sharing these stories of his travels and his childhood at open mic nights and performing arts events around the Indianapolis community, where he developed the stage name “Our Sun Paul.” In 2015, he moved to Philadelphia in search of a lost branch of his family tree, and in 2016, he joined Keepers of Culture, Inc., Philadelphia’s Afrocentric Storytelling Group, which works to preserve and strengthen elements of African culture and the narratives of the ancestors in Philadelphia and beyond. Through this collective, he developed his art, learning the structure, science, history, and purpose of Black Storytelling.

Among his many accomplishments, he is a resident storyteller in the Africa Galleries of the Penn Museum, currently serves as the youngest president of Keepers of Culture, Inc., and he teaches Social Justice History to the 8th graders at the Young Scholars Charter School in Philadelphia. As a teacher, he recognizes that all history is storytelling, so he includes in his teachings the missing and excluded stories of the contributions of African people to the civilizations of the world. His lesson plans weave facts, details, and information about various people and events into a narrative that students must not only understand, but can retain in a way that allows them to make connections to the rest of history and their own lives.