Members

Mama Jatu Gray – President

Mama Jatu Ayi is a griot, a storyteller who weaves stories together like an Arachnoid spins a web.Stories from  African and African American history, slavery. Juneteenth, and freedom. Tales of true-life stories,about trust, character, hope, perseverance, and inspiration. Pourquoi stories about ‘why’. She is a clever and engaging teller of tales so vivid and colorful with such animation….you will surely be enlightened and ENTERTAINED!
Mama Jatu Ayi is a storyteller and Educator at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African History, Detroit Public Schools, Arab American Museum, Historical  Museum, The Dearborn Performing Arts Theater, Channel 7 News, Channel 4 News during Black History Month.
EMAIL: jatugray@chwmuseum.org

Laura Franklin Treasurer

Laura Franklin known as “Zimmie” the story teller loves telling stories. Ms. Franklin has worked for 31 years in the Detroit Public Schools as an Elementary/ Middle school Science Teacher. How did Ms. Franklin get into story telling? She would tell stories to her students, friends, and family.  In 2002, a friend encouraged her to share her stories at a church program.  Ms. Franklin uses fables, folktales that encourage positive messages of working together, unity, love with a little bit of humor. Ms. Franklin is a member of Detroit Black Association of Black Story Tellers and Detroit Story League.  She has performed at community centers, schools, cultural events and various churches.    Mrs. Franklin wants you to know that she is humble and so grateful to have an opportunity to pass on a little bit of love through the art of storytelling. EMAIL:Laurawfranklin@yahoo.com LTQ Storytelling Service

Sheryl Pryor – Financial Secretary

Elder Amy Jackson – Founder
Michele Pierrie – Historian
Michele Ross Pierrie is a native Detroiter.  As an elementary student, she always enjoyed the 
storytellers who read to the neighborhood children at the Oakman 
Public Library.  She graduated from Mumford High School in 1970 and Wayne 
State University in 1975.  After retiring  from the Federal Government 
in January 2011, Michele decided to join that March, The Detroit 
Association of Black Storytellers to learn how to become a 
storyteller. After attending other storytelling events, she decided along with three other tellers to adventure out and form a storytelling group with a twist. EMAIL: mpierrie@aol.com 
Elder Jennie Crittendon
Ethel Revels
Michelle McKinney

Detroit native Michelle McKinney, also known as Mama Jahra, is a multi-talented educator and performing artist, executive director of Detroit Sound Conservancy, a community archives, and a Librarian/Archivist for the Wright Museum of African American History. Telling stories through song, she is a featured singer with McKinfolk, led by her daughter, drummer/composer Gayelynn McKinney. Trained as a researcher, singer, storyteller-writer, actor and percussionist in the Detroit community for over 40 years, she loves to spin tales in varied communities. Her stories in repertoire include stories from history, jazz and blues songs, games, fairy and folk tales, as well as stories of famous authors, such as Zora Neale Hurston of the Harlem Renaissance period and Birago Diop of Senegal. Travel with her and be in her stories, “Tales of the Summerland.” EMAIL: mmkinney@chwmuseum,org

Maxiane Cain

Maxine started working as a professional in 1968 as a primary unit teacher with the Detroit Public Schools and has since served in the capacities of educational resource specialist, principal in both Lansing and Detroit, Director of Elementary Education for the Lansing District and Superintendent of Sankofa Shule Public School Academy in Lansing, Michigan. Maxine is a national keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Through the years, she has been invited by many local and national business organizations to speak before youth and adults as she shares her expertise in the use of strategies that strengthen self-esteem, diversity and inclusion, empowering people to improve, and teaching our youth and adults by creating stronger teams: strategies that can be used in the home, school, and work place in a manner that is both participatory and easy to put into practice. Her evaluations are always at the highest level with comments such as, “ Maxine changed my life! She should take this show on the road!” Maxine is the recipient of the Sojourner Truth Award (Greater Lansing Area Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club, Inc.), Multi-Cultural Award (MEA), NAACP Membership Award (Lansing Chapter), Chairperson Awards (YMCA), and the Whitney Young Award (Boy Scouts of America), National Storytellers Jackie Terrance Award, to mention a few. Email: maxinecain@me.com

Cheryl Olden

Award Winning: Clinician, Author, Playwright…..Storyteller Now retired, it was on this new journey that I found the piece that tied all of my dreams and skills together: Storytelling! Storytelling; “There is something exciting about the power of stories.  They are meant to be told as they have great power.  I read them, tell them, change them and most of all they are reflective of who I am and my belief that you must: Know your history to know Your-self!”© Performances:  Prefer telling personal stories and will tailor to event topic, stories that teach a memorable lesson and inspire change, stories that impact substance use and mental health recovery efforts, personal stories performed for children that encourage their participation.  Stories, that support, and teach clinical skill building and resilience with required licensure. I may be contacted at: Colden313@aol.com

Roshanda Womack

Shani Womack, was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. She is the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant and a Baptist preacher. Shani is a professional counselor and co-pastor of The Underground Church. She has always found joy in being in front an audience. She began performing as a professional singer, songwriter and storyteller 17 years ago. Over that time, Shani has created memorable performances that showcase her soothing voice and her energetic storytelling style, as a means to address the need for more justice, equity, inclusion and love in our world. Shani is most famous for her Anancy Stories in Jamaican dialect. Shani weaves together original music, poetry and folk songs with personal and family stories, history lessons, and Jamaican folktales to transport you to another world. It’s sure to leave you feeling Irie, which simply means Fantastic! She is available for performances virtually and in-person throughout the year. To learn more or for booking, visit shaniwomack.com

Larry Castleberry- Vice President / Promotions

 I am storyteller who loves to tell personal story (family words of wisdom as well as personal stories), rich stories and fables from the world of African American and African Folktales as well as stories from the world of the Martial Arts. Larry is an interactive story teller who loves to engage and connect with the audience. Larry’s goal is to inform, entertain and educate. As well as being a story teller he is also a student and teacher of the Martial art of Aikido and is an Avid Chess Player. In terms of Aikido he has the pleasure of being trained and graded by Sensei Amos Parker, highest ranking non Japanese Aikidoist practitioner in the world before his passing in 2013. In terms of Chess he is proud to say that he can claim Detroit Legend John Brooks as both an mentor and inspiration in terms. Email: Larry.Castleberry.Jr@gmail.com

Elder Vickie Slaughter – Membership

 

Janice Burnett Newsletter

I have worked as a children’s librarian, social worker, and a registered nurse.  Since my retirement I have enjoyed sharing stories of folklore, African-American History and life experience. on university campuses, museums, recreation centers, senior centers, schools and churches.  I love using storytelling to promote literacy from early childhood through adulthood. Email: aimhigher1112@gmail.com

Elder Genevieve Bellamay
Mary Grant

Mary Johnson Grant is an educator, author, storyteller and workshop facilitator. She has been a professional storyteller and workshop presenter for many years. She uses an interactive approach while telling stories to all ages in schools, television/radio programs, community, social events and parent’s workshops. Mary shares African folktales like” Anansi the Spider”, Historical Reenactments like The Life of “Sojourner Truth”, self-esteem stories like “The Eagles Who Thought They Were Chickens” and historical workshops on the “Great Migration’s Storytelling”. She shares her personal stories to promote literacy in workshops or just sharing to encourage early reader’s confidence. EMAIL: info@storiesbymjgrant.com

Chiquita McKenzie
Judy Sima

Judy Sima is one of Michigan’s favorite storytellers. She has been featured at conferences and festivals, schools, and libraries throughout Michigan and across the country.  A retired middle school librarian, Judy has been entertaining audiences since 1983. Judy has introduced many young people and adults to the art of storytelling. For seventeen years, Judy coached a middle school student storytelling troupe resulting in her award-winning book, Raising Voices: Creating Youth Storytelling Groups and Troupes. According to the National Storytelling Network, Judy is considered to be “The Pied Piper of Storytelling in Metro Detroit,” some call her the “Fairy Godmother of Storytelling” as she continually helps and encourages beginning and experienced storytellers to improve their craft. She is the recipient of two National Storytelling Network Oracle Awards for “Service and Leadership” as well as “Distinguished National Service.” Judy is the current president of the Detroit Story League and the editor of “MI Story,” the only electronic calendar listing public storytelling events in Michigan, now featuring virtual storytelling events across the nation. Contact Judy@JudySima.com to subscribe or to list your event. The Calendar is free, and the listings are free.  

Leah Rich

I am a retired Detroit Public Schools’ teacher. I first became interested in the art of storytelling while working on my teaching certificate. I had a college professor who could tell a story like no other.  His ability to spin a tale captivated, inspired and created a desire in me to learn more about this craft. I began to attend various storytelling festivals and decided that this is something I wanted to pursue.  I was mesmerized that storytelling had the ability to teach life lessons, build and strengthen character, motivate, encourage, stimulate the imagination, help solve problems and fill in gaps.  I felt this skill would be an asset in the classroom. Over the years, I read stories to my students daily and occasionally infused storytelling into the curriculum.  They would sometimes surprise me by asking me to retell a real life story that I had shared with them months earlier.  At other times, a state of tranquility would permeate the atmosphere for an unusually long period of time after sharing a real life story with the children.  You could sense that they were processing what they just heard.  Even though these experiences were rewarding,  I soon became sidetracked as I concentrated on the demands of teaching. When I retired, the desire to learn the art of storytelling was rekindled in me.  So in the beginning of January 2020, I joined Parent Tellers and DABS.  I know that this is the time and this is the place to release the storyteller in me.  It is my hope and desire that the stories I share have a significant impact in someone’s life.

Barbara Clack
Loretta Vitek

Growing up in both Detroit’s east side and a town outside of Florence Italy called Pontassieve  my love of stories developed early because everyone I knew told stories all the time about everyone and everything.  So, like any normal person I started telling tales when I learned to talk!   I love ‘folk tales’ because, as we all know,  folktales, legends and myths all probably began as personal stories, which should always be told as often as possible to as many people as possible.   
As a librarian, my love of reading grew and expanded and with it my love of stories. The more stories I learn the more stories I want to share.  Those who know me will tell you, I am especially fond of dragon stories because they bring magic and wonder into our lives. Grateful to be a member of a wonderful group like DABS, I am always astounded by the whole new universe of stories I am able to hear, tell and learn by being part of this amazing group of friends.   Remember there is always a story -it would be a shame not to share it!
Storyteller ~ Librarian ~ Seamstress Email:  DragonStory@HotMail.com

Gwen Lewis – Secretary

(GWEN DU LYN) Gwendolyn has found her niche as an “Interactive Storyteller”.  She says,” storytelling is her way of bringing life to stories and biographies”.  Gwen interacts with the audience with her captivating use of props, repetition and audience   participation.  She also engages the audience with sign language and drums. Thru her company, Let’s Hear It Again…With Gwen, she shares multi-cultural, themed and kindness stories to K-8 grade students, civic organizations and public libraries.  Gwen also gives narrations and poetry of Coretta Scott King, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks and Erma Henderson. REVIEW-“WE LOVE HOW SHE ENGAGES THE AUDIENCE”… Email :  glewis2@mi.rr.com

Anthony Ross Immediate Past President

When first becoming a storyteller I was so not into becoming a stage Teller.    I sat as close to the door as possible because I was just observing the Master Storytellers work.  I soon volunteered my marketing skills  because of my experience with promoting events to help them. I incorporated the presentation pointers from my past promotions experience.  I used all the gestures and body language I know to entice the listeners to attend my performances.  I began to evolve from a story talker to an experience storyteller.  I perform stories from my childhood, military and traveling experiences.  As I looked at the listening eyes of my audiences, I thought this is working. My storytelling has evolved. Now I am a professional storyteller.   I must follow my storytelling soul because I’m not sure where I might land. EMAIL: rossanthony27@yahoo.com

Ashanti

 

Jasmine Ross – Tech Advisor
Elder Ivory Williams

A retired AT&T Sales/Marketing Manager, past president of Efficacy Detroit (an organization dedicated to the growth and development of youth), former elementary school principal, Vietnam Vet-Navy, Wayne State grad and past president of DABS (Detroit Association of Black Storytellers), Ivory D. Williams is a Master Storyteller. Ivory is a skilled speaker who interweaves his stories with humor, wit and fun to engage audiences young and old to spread positive messages. Promoting and perpetuating the ancient art of African and African American storytelling in the oral tradition, he covers all genres. So grab your funnybone and thinking cap because his presentations are unique, creative, highly interactive, entertaining and educational. Email: effy1@aol.com

Pamela Williams
Pam Jones

Pamela  Jones, aka Jonesy is an advocate for women’s health and an authentic storyteller, sharing stories of triumph in humorous, entertaining and inspiring way. Storyteller, Author, Workshop Presenter and  Host of the “Pampering Myself” Podcast Email: Jonesythestoryteller@gmail.com

Mildred Matlock

Mildred Matlock, PhD is a motivational storyteller who uses personal stories to engage audiences in community, worship and competitive venues. Participants in her workshops learn to develop stories to enliven the family tree and preserve family values.  Her commitment to audiences is to share memorable, humorous stories that educate, entertain and inspire new self-perception.  Her motto: “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.”  Email: mcmatlock@sbcglobal.net

Chris Watkins

Chris has a writing career that began in 2007 and began to create stories that spoke to the soul.  She wrote inspirational articles for a local newspaper until 2014 when the newspaper closed its doors.  Now Chris includes the art of storytelling in her repertoire, a natural progression to further embellish her journey and satisfy her love for stories.   Chris joined Detroit Association of Black Storytellers (DABS) and The Detroit Story League, both in 2017.  She has performed impromptu and themed stories.  Chris has written and performed character stories and presentations for Black History month.  She is excited to write and share stories from her experiences because she believes we all have a story to tell.

James Graham

The Storyteller, James W. Graham Jr (In the Tradition of the African Griot)

A husband, father, and grandfather to three; James W. Graham Jr has been telling stories professionally since 1993.  With a history of performances in schools ranging from kindergarten to high school, the start of his storytelling began while reading to his children before bedtime.  His storytelling venues have included volunteering at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, prisons, detention homes, Sunday schools and reading programs for inner city youth. James is a graduate of the Medical College of Virginia, a division of Virginia Commonwealth University, with a BS in Physical Therapy. In addition, James has received a Masters degree in Secondary Education from Wayne State University with Michigan teaching certification in Learning Disabilities.  He is deemed “Highly Qualified” to teach Special Education in Elementary settings and in High School Earth Science. As a Physical Therapist for twenty years, primarily in a home care environment, James practiced his stories on an audience of which he will admit, most of whom could not easily walk away.  In his former duties as a Sunday school teacher, James used stories to fine-tune his educational skills in delivering positive moral messages. Recently James taught an eleventh grade special education Earth Science class at Henry Ford in the Detroit Public Schools as well as students at a center for adjudicated youth. Due to medical issues, James has left his positions and enrolled in a Sign Language program at Oakland County Community College. To his credit he has published his stories in the forms of one book, one CD and a multimedia project.  Current projects include a CD titled “Stories for the Spirit” along with a CD to be titled “Tree Stories for my Grandchildren”. A summary of what drives James is his love for The Creator, a love of people, a love for stories, and the desire to become what and who The Creator wants him to be.

Equilla Marie Walker

A Detroit native has been featured at Reading and Rhythm on the Riverfront – 2019 & 2020sponsored by the Detroit Library, GM, and The Riverfront Conservancy.She lives in Arkansas but travels to Detroit several times conducting workshops and visiting family.  She is an Arkansas Arts Council Artist (Photography, Storytelling, Collage) and Arkansas Art In Education Artist conducting art residencies using arts integration for kids. Email: EquillaMarieCreative@gmail.com