From the tall tales of relatives to the flat out adventurous exaggerations of friends to Grimm tales, we all love a great story. Some of our earliest memories are of books being read to us by parental storytellers.
Each month in Detroit an ever-growing group meets with the expressed purpose of sharing some of the best of these impromptu expressions in an environment that feels more like family than a structured happening.
The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers gathers in various locations across the metro area to – as founder Satori Shakoor says – “tell true stories off the beaten path.” The challenge now for the group is finding a venue large enough to hold the swelling crowds. At an event I attended recently, 200-plus people sat intently listening to common folks from all walks of life tell their uncommon tales.
Shakoor is a native Detroiter – an accomplished actress, writer and comedienne who some may remember as a one-time member of George Clinton’s Brides of Funkenstein years ago. Now among other things, she organizes the Society and gets infinite joy out of sharing and hearing stories and helping everyday people take their life experiences and polish them into something to be presented in front of a couple of hundred family friends.
Growing up, Shakoor’s father (who was 56 when she was born) had a church. She fondly remembers him sitting everybody down to listen to stories passed down through the family and to share others. “Some of my favorite memories are listening to my father. For every story he would tell me, I would create little movies in my head for each and every detail. I feel like I’ve always been a storyteller.”
“Storytelling is a way to collectively keep history alive. At our events, we are creating an environment of family and warmth – that’s by design,” she says. “Though everyone has a story, everyone can’t tell a story. I love working with people to get them ready to step up to the microphone and share.”
It all started in 2009, when Shakoor wrote a short story of the same name that would eventually become the now popular group. She admits she never thought her little piece, The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, would ever see the light of day.
She liked her story and decided to look for somewhere to share it. As chance would have it, she decided to enter a storytelling competition at the Gem Theater, while looking for a job. She came in second place. That showing let her know she might be on to something. She has never looked back … performing and sharing her stories at various spots across the country including New York and as a regular host at The Moth story slam in Ann Arbor.
“I live for the moments when it just clicks and the audience is right there in it (the story) with me. It’s like a toboggan ride – we’re all in this thing together,” she says.
“You never know who you might find on stage,” says Ted Olds, a Birmingham attorney and frequent contributor at Society events. Olds first met Shakoor at The Moth where they were both in one of their monthly storytelling competitions, which Olds has won four times.
“Getting up on stage is intoxicating,” he says. “What Satori has going on is one of the best things happening in Detroit. More people need to come out and get involved.”
Olds says he loves the competitions at the Moth, but also loves the free flowing structure of the Society. “There is a great mix of cultures, ages and races. The variety of people involved is just amazing,” he added.
“I started this as a way to create community and uplift people,” Shakoor says. “Everyone who comes to a Society event is a partner – there to receive and give of themselves. I think everyone should do this at least once in their lives.”
After a full evening of fun with the Society, you’ll notice Shakoor and her sister at the door, shaking everyone’s hand and thanking them for coming – all 200-plus people. It reminds you of leaving your cousin’s house after a fine holiday meal. Just a bunch of family friends coming together to have a good time.
The next Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers event is a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood on February 15 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Given that it is so close to Valentine’s Day, the theme for the evening is “Love and War.” To reserve a spot or for more information, visit their website or Facebook page.