I recently attended a story-telling event with my long-time friend Cathleen Francois of GreeningDetroit. GreeningDetroit is a media sponsor for The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers which is held monthly at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Midtown Detroit. She invited me because she knew I would enjoy what was being offered. Since she had invited me to the event, I was intrigued just by the name and I was understandably excited to see what we would experience and the stories we would hear.
When talking to friends and family about the event, they would ask me what this Secret Society is all about and what type of stories they would tell. I didn’t know what to expect really. So I went into this event a virgin, as Satori Shakoor would say. Being a mature woman and mother of two children in college and two more in high school, I found that funny. But she was right. I was a virgin… to these stories. As I sat there for a performance that began at 8 and lasted three hours, all the time I was glued to each performer and their story. I felt my “virginity” slip away with each moving minute of storytelling. Satori is the Master of Ceremonies, a Ringmaster Extraordinaire, of what she calls a way to rebuild Detroit, a way to heal a city that needs to be brought back to life. Her goal and mission is to rebuild Detroit by utilizing its history and sharing the stories of the people that have lived here or been raised by those that have.
Detroit has an extremely rich history and everyone that has come in contact with this city has their own unique story. My story involves my mother’s parents who lived, worked, raised their family, and died in here. My father, was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario and was a frequent visitor to Detroit. He would make the journey over the border to see a movie, go to school, or simply enjoy the fun of riding on a boat across river.
The stories were all very moving. From the couple Ken and Lori Gray, to Beusany Love, all of the stories were told from the heart. The theme of love was near and dear to all of them and very relatable for the audience. As it was a cold evening in February the lulls and chills of the winter had overcome us all for months so who wouldn’t want to hear a couple stories about love.
Ken and Lori’s story was about love indeed. Both are African Americans but they were met with lots of flack from family members and friends when they began their relationship. The difference in skin color even between lighter and darker African Americans may not strike everyone as an issue of contention, however, these are very real issues in some instances. They told us about the help and direction that God gave them in letting them know that they would be together and how His direction has sustained them. When they spoke it was with the fervor to their faith and their love of each other. Lori remembered and relayed a quote from one of her friends that made me laugh. Her friend had told her, “Lori, don’t pick a man just because his grandma couldn’t run as fast your grandma”. Reflections like this brought a life to the story, and to how both of them defined themselves as Black, but still had to contend with other’s definitions and limitations. With their steadfast faith in God, they trusted His lead and married, and from the way they stood together on stage, sharing their intimate details of how they had met and fell in love, you believed it was true. Even though they had to overcome racial ambiguities, they pressed on with their relationship. Hearing a tale of love like this in our often racially-divided region was healing in itself and can be instructive to others dealing with similar situations.
Beusany, a very well dressed and beautiful artist came out as another storyteller. She found her gift by drawing, then being asked to draw a portrait from a photo, and finally to draw for people who wanted pieces of their lives on a canvas forever. Her love story began with meeting a handsome man who seemed attracted to her. He was also interested in giving her things, money for shopping, and even a car. A couple days later, what seemed like a dream would turn into a nightmare as she realized he was “playing her”. So many in the audience were humming and moaning in agreement as if they had experienced similar swoon stories of their own. The story got worse and worse with her sharing experiences of a bad check, being escorted by police, and even being imprisoned. She was then picked up by her mother embarrassed and full of shame. She admitted wholeheartedly that her mistake was not loving herself enough to see that this man was no good for her. She felt the money and all of the promises of things were more important than honesty, respect, and a sense of being cherished. She vowed to learn to love herself and that night, she proudly stated she has finally reached that point of self-love needed to protect against terrible situations like those she spoke about. We cheered, we cried, we felt her pain when she was fooled. The way that she communicated the horrors of her story made us all connect with her and share in the healing experience.
There were three more story tellers but these two stuck out for me. Along with the stories we were also blessed to hear from an amazing vocalist with an accompanying saxophone player. All in all, it was a night of healing and I finally understood what Satori was talking about and how storytelling can be used to help the healing process along. Those stories stayed with me through the weekend, and will stay with me for a long time. They are the stories of people, who willingly opened up their hearts to share some of their most personal experiences with an audience of mostly strangers. That is what makes this event worth seeing. The humanity and lessons of humanity we can glean from others and watching them open up in front of strangers is very sobering. The humor, the laughter, and sometimes the tears, brought all of us into a connection with each other, a human connection. Satori is right, storytelling is healing, and I definitely look forward to returning next month and hopefully every month that I can make it on the third Friday at 8 pm.
The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers meets on the third Friday of every month at the Charles H. Wright Museum at 315 East Warren Avenue in the Cultural and Museum district in Midtown Detroit.
Diane McLaughlin is a Certified Massage Therapist and Reiki Master. This is her first story for GreeningDetroit.com. Editor Jordon Tofoli works for GreeningDetroit.com and the Hamtramck School District.