Family Legends of Alexandria


Family Legends of Alexandria is a program of Living Legends of Alexandria that encourages children to interview and chronicle family and community members to create original illustrated stories to document their world. Children write, draw, photograph, build books and express themselves and their history through diverse media in settings and venues throughout the City.

Children participating in Family Legends projects hear legendary tales from their own families and the community and transform those stories through writing, art, photography and bookmaking. This experience helps them recognize their importance in the Alexandria community and their unique potential as history-makers.

Family Legends of Alexandria also encourages multi-generational dialogue among Legends and youth through special projects such as matching Legends with students and classes for interviews and projects in art, writing, photography and videography, and by support for the school-based PTA Reflections Contest program.

Family Legends originated in 2011 with dynamic local book artist/educator Sushmita Mazumdar and Living Legends of Alexandria Founder Nina Tisara. Kathleen Baker, 2015 Legend, continues to coordinate the project for Living Legends.

Schedule for 2015-16

September-October: Legends “Let Your Imagination Fly” with students participating in PTA Reflections contest in Alexandria Elementary Schools.

September 21- October 9: “Sharing Stories of Heritage Through Bookmaking” with Sushmita Mazumdar at Cora Kelly Recreation Center, 25 W. Reed Avenue, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

October 31: “Family Legends Bookmaking Workshop” with Sushmita Mazumdar at Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street.

February 13: “Family Legends Bookmaking Workshop” with Sushmita Mazumdar at Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street.

Recent Family Legends Community Participants

– Alexandria Black History Museum
– Alexandria City Public Schools Summer Enrichment Program
– Carpenter’s Shelter
– Commonwealth Academy, Videography and Art Departments
– T.C. Williams High School Media Department
– William Ramsay Recreation Center

Profile: Sushmita Mazumdar

Sushmita Mazumdar is from India and speaks many languages. She moved to the US in 1999 and after an 18-year career as an art director in India and the U.S., and after she had two kids, she taught herself to be a writer, book artist, and educator. Sushmita teaches art education programs for children and adults encouraging storytelling and the sharing of cultural heritage through art and by making storybooks by hand. She has taught at museums, schools, and arts institutions in the Washington, D.C. area. In 2013 she founded Studio PAUSE, where she encourages the community to make time to explore creativity and to learn about each other through art and stories.

StudioPause: 2421 26th Road S, Arlignton, VA 22206

The Writer/Educator/Book Artist “Sush” describes her students’ work:

“It begins with everyone saying they don’t have a story to tell, how there’s nothing interesting to talk about. But everybody wants to make cool-looking storybooks so we start and fifteen minutes in we have stories of grandpa’s ghost near the fridge, a grandma in Ethiopia with a weird pet with long eyelashes (a camel), a soccer ball kicked out over the tops of buildings, and a dangerous fried chicken dinner in Maryland!” Sush remembers from the first time she taught Family Legends Bookmaking at Ramsay Recreation Center in 2011.

“Just learning how to make their own books gives children the power to always have a home for a story they write. How awesome is that! Along the way they learn about story elements, researching family stories, interviewing parents and grandparents, and becoming the family’s storykeeper.

“Then there is the sharing—where their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents came to Alexandria from, and why. Why a grandma from Alabama dreamt of white kids waving to her from a school bus, why a mom who was dared by her 6 brothers took on the dare, or how grandma’s house in Colombia was full of awesome pictures—made by mom when she was little!

“When the students’ stories appeared in Living Legends of Alexandria’s blog and in the Alexandria Gazette Packet’s Christmas Kids Special, I was met with jumps, shyness, and smiles at the William Ramsay Recreation Center, where we taught the classes. ‘My teacher saw my story in the paper!’ one student said. Another brought me her journal full of awesome stories.

‘But she’s not good in school,’ a mother told me. ‘She’s doing great in my class,’ was all I could say.”

To participate in Family Legends, or for more information, contact:

Kathleen Baker, National Board Certified Teacher,
Chair, Family Legends of Alexandria, A Project of Living Legends of Alexandria ℠, Tel. 703-403-6882.