The group is hushed to a deafening silence as Rev. Edward Knox relives having to establish his son’s lifeless physique. His arms tremble and a tangible ache pours from his voice as he tells his story of despair, questioning God, and being humbled.
Rev. Knox is without doubt one of the audio system at Detroit’s Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers for the night, although it is something however a secret. The curated present the place actual individuals share tales of hardship, pleasure, resilience, and eventual triumph, has been round since 2012.
After a two-year hiatus in 2020 and 2021 as a result of COVID-19, it lastly returned within the spring of this yr.
To start with, Storytellers was held inside a tiny storefront with 70 folding chairs arrange for the viewers. Since then it has grown to the pack the Charles H. Wright Museum, the place it was held till the coronavirus shutdown, and now audiences flock to the Marygrove Theatre to see the present. It typically sells out with individuals rounding up their pals and typically complete households for the night.
When my aunt invited me to Storytellers on the Charles H. Wright Museum in 2015, I had no concept what to anticipate. Do random individuals simply get on stage and inform tales? What’s so attention-grabbing about that? Why would I wish to pay to take heed to them?
After a number of hours in that packed auditorium, all of it made sense. What makes Storytellers nice is the connection that it fosters between the speaker and the listener. It reminds us of our related humanity — that we’re all having a human expertise stuffed with pleasure and ache, and if we took the time to hear to one another, we’d notice we’re not so completely different.
The magic additionally lies inside electrical host and Storytellers creator Satori Shakoor. Shakoor is a hilarious and upbeat powerhouse with a voice (and identify) that you simply’ll always remember. You wanna discuss a legendary Detroiter? Shakoor is it. She’s opened for Joan Rivers as a humorist. She toured with George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic as a Bride of Funkenstein. She’s written for Canadian tv and is an achieved actor.
She’s additionally a 2017 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow within the storytelling class (which was just about created for her), and hosts Detroit Performs: Reside on the Marygrove and WDET’s Twisted Storytellers podcast. I may go on, however you get the thought.
Talking to Shakoor over the cellphone appears like my very own non-public present of Storytellers with the grasp herself.
Shakoor began Storytellers in 2012 following the demise of her mom and her son. On the time, she had lately moved again to Detroit and was out of labor after performing and touring all around the world.
“It had been about six years since I misplaced my mom and 9 months later my son,” she remembers. “I went on this six yr grieving course of and after I got here out of it, Wall Avenue had crashed, I had been working as an actor and was out of labor. They wouldn’t prolong my unemployment advantages, which I had earned… I didn’t like that feeling of dependency so I took a stand that I used to be gonna do what I cherished to do it doesn’t matter what.”
She was working at Macy’s when a buddy invited her to Cliff Bells for The Moth, a nationwide occasion the place individuals inform their tales in a contest format. She got here in second place on her first attempt to received the second time. Although she ended up dropping the grand slam competitors after that, she was supplied a job as a predominant storyteller and host of The Moth in Ann Arbor.
“Once I received the Moth I mentioned,’ I guess I can make more cash telling tales than at Macy’s,’” she says. “I proved that however what I observed greater than any paycheck was that my story was therapeutic me. Once I appeared round at Detroit I spotted me and town had been the identical — with all of the punishments which have been occurring since 1967 with water shutoffs, the housing disaster, and all of the processes of gentrification — we had been each going by a change and needing to be healed.”
Shakoor truly began the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers whereas she was internet hosting The Moth. Storytellers is extra primarily based on group constructing, she says, which was desperately wanted in Detroit.
“Once I moved again to Detroit in 2011, I noticed all these deserted homes, drug sellers that had been actually the neighborhood watch, solely 11 individuals residing on the block, and graffiti being probably the most lovely art work you may discover within the neighborhood,” she says. “I felt gutted and questioned, what if individuals may use their very own private residing expertise to specific and heal themselves and make a contribution to all who’re listening. Ten years have confirmed that it’s working.”
She’s proper. Storytellers’ mission is to “join humanity, heal and remodel group, and supply an uplifting, thought-provoking, soul-cleansing entertaining expertise by the artwork and craft of storytelling,” she tells me. And that’s precisely what it does.
After Rev. Knox instructed his impassioned story of processing grief, Shakoor says she was approached by his spouse.
“She mentioned, ‘I’ve by no means heard him ever categorical himself like that about our son.’ I feel it kinda healed the household a bit as a result of they had been truly capable of see his grief,” Shakoor says. “Households come pondering they know their relations, or ‘I’ve heard this story so many instances earlier than,’ however they hear it in another way by the ears of an viewers member.”
She continues, “I’ve had trans girls on the present and Black males within the viewers will name me afterward and say, ‘I’ve by no means met or been that near a trans particular person… however I may relate to them.’ In regarding her story, she may very well be human. Storytellers breaks down generational obstacles, racial obstacles, gender obstacles, all of it.”
Some notable audio system prior to now ten years embrace Derrell Siggers, who spent 34 years in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit, and Anita Posey, who killed her boyfriend for bodily abusing her toddler son.
“The truth that [Siggers] didn’t have any bitterness was simply… wonderful,” she says. “I like tales the place individuals have had life be on their neck and in some way nonetheless discover gratitude.”
So what makes a great story?
“Excessive stakes,” Shakoor says. “If so, how did you find yourself standing right here telling it? These are the extra riveting and compelling tales. What did the storyteller be taught to allow them to give knowledge again to others?”
In case you’ve ever questioned whether or not the tales are all the time 100% actual, they’re, however Shakoor does coach presenters on their supply.
“I don’t inform them what to say, I simply give them the craft by which to say it,” she explains. “I’ve had individuals come to me with this little poem that makes my eyes glaze over, and I begin asking them deeper questions and now they’re in tears, and I say, there you go. That’s the story. I do know public talking is human beings’ primary concern. It’s such as you’d somewhat die than stand up on stage, I get it. However I do know I may help anybody inform their story. We’ve had over 500 individuals on stage.”
Shakoor grew to become the grasp storyteller she is at present by listening to her relations who had been “outdated Black girls within the south,” as she places it.
“They had been uneducated however they may create novels in your thoughts. In order that’s what I grew up round and that’s what I knew.”
Whereas she discovered the artwork of storytelling from her southern household, touring with P-Funk taught Shakoor a few of her biggest classes about being a performer.
As she tells it, Shakoor joined the Brides of Funkstein when P-Funk was on the very pinnacle of their success, simply as One Nation Beneath a Groove was being launched within the late Seventies. The following two years noticed hit after hit, however Shakoor remembers one night time particularly when solely 500 individuals got here to see their present in Atlanta.
5 hundred individuals could sound like loads, however that is P-Funk we’re speaking about and the Fox Theatre, the place the present was held, had 50,000 seats.
“I used to be form of dissatisfied, however [George Clinton] mentioned, ‘You must play tougher for them as a result of they’re those that got here.’ So he would give them the present of their life, irrespective of how many individuals confirmed up. He had quite a lot of knowledge that I may inherit and apply.”
The ten-year journey creating, constructing, and rising Storytellers hasn’t all the time been straightforward, however Shakoor has used all the knowledge she’s gathered all through her life to make it occur.
“I went from having the lights turned out, renting chairs for $1 every, setting them up and breaking them down, to internet hosting Storytellers at Marygrove [Theatre],” she says. “It’s been fairly a journey but it surely’s been value it each step of the best way. And there’s nonetheless quite a lot of work to be finished. There’s lots of people who’re nonetheless afraid to inform their fact.”
The following Twisted Storytellers is Friday, June 17 from 7:30 -9:30 p.m. at Marygrove Theatre. The theme is “Lion Kings” that includes tales by Orlando Bailey, Charlie LeDuff, Orlando Rivera, and Jacob Walker, with dwell music from Charles Martin and a dance efficiency from Kevin Collins and Pamela Moore. Tickets are $20 and should be bought on-line upfront. No tickets will probably be obtainable on the door. Extra data is accessible at twistedtellers.org.