By Adrian Tonon, Jabari Jefferson , Andre Reed
Photo Lil Monsterr
In order to look back on these historical times, it is crucial to have those who document the stories of the people who are leading change and shaping the culture. Meet four story tellers and change makers who are preserving and championing moments that will live on in history forever.
AJ Williams / Managing Editor – Michigan Chronicle
Editor – City.Life.Style.
My Black community is my “why”. Historically, the black community story was not highlighted as newsworthy with the exception of violence and crime, which is why the historic black newspapers were started with the first being the “Freedom Journal” in 1827, following suit with The Pittsburgh Courier, Chicago Defender, and the Michigan Chronicle which used to be called the Detroit Chronicle just to name a few. These publications gave voice to the voiceless — the black community and told our stories and were at the foundation of being apart of cultivating change throughout our history from the civil rights movement all the way to the first black female Vice-President. This is my why!
As it is with anything in life, but especially with story-telling, you must have PASSION and your passion has to be about the story/person/project — not about you. When you make your mission the story and speak from an authentic voice, it all shines through and your audience feels every emotion behind your words.
As I stated earlier the core mission of writing and story-telling should be to give voice to those who might not otherwise be heard. I’ve never had dreams of working at larger mainstream publications because my passion is for black people and in my current role at my publication the black community is our passion and mission. The root of my job is based on creating equity and opportunity and highlighting those who are doing it best and those who need to step up to do it better.
Eric Thomas / Chief Storyteller City of Detroit
In the past, I spent a lot of time watching things happen that I had predicted would happen. I thought, “I should start writing this down stuff so I can have a point of reference.” Eventually, that evolved into a need to express my perspective on narratives that I thought were underrepresented. To me, storytelling is an expression of the human need to capture time and emotions in a bottle. Our ability to capture stories and pass them forward in time is one of the primary things that makes humans special. It’s sort of like a primitive time machine.
Most importantly, it’s so much bigger than writing. Oral histories, paintings and illustrations, and even dance have been used to capture the essence and identity of people. The best way to tell a story is the best way you’re able to.It’s inspiring to be a part of that lineage.Don’t let anybody tell you their way of storytelling is the best. Don’t let your fear of not being good enough stop you from starting.
Currently, I’m a graphic designer, public speaker, and writer dabbling in photography, video, and social media. Writing for me was probably the hardest to start and is still the hardest for me to do. When I started writing, I tried to come at it from an educated “collegiate approach.” But fam, I dropped out of community college. Collegiate is not really my bag. Like, what? So instead, I remembered that people liked to hear me speak. So I began to write like that. After I locked into my voice, the writing took off.I’ve always had the most success just expressing myself as honestly as I can. Honestly, I’d rather fail to do what brings me joy than trying to be somebody else and not working out.
I tend to write from the lens of the articulate and disenfranchised. My goal is to tell you exactly what’s not working, how it’s not working, and how it can be fixed if there is a will to do so. If I had to reflect on the method, it probably follows a path that’s something like reveal, reflect, and re-evaluate. To reveal, I paint a picture of the world we live in, while trying to peel back the layers to uncover what sinister thing might be lying beneath the surface. I then work with the reader to reflect on if this is the world we would like to, or even have to, live in. And invite the observer to re-evaluate their ideology and existence in the context of this new revelation.
I would hope that this work allows communities that I’m lifting to feel seen while helping outside communities understand, in some small way, why a mindset shift and resource reallocation could be important.When people feel seen, they are more open to receiving support. When outsiders feel on board into new ideologies, it’s easier to discard old thoughts without feeling attacked. I haven’t always been successful at both, but I continue to work to improve every time.
Mykeya Haygood / Founder of Unlocked With Keys
The vehicle that drives the “why” behind my inspiration for Unlocking stories is the daily joy of connecting to someone with a story to tell that’s much different from my own or the guest prior.
Each time I am charged with the tasks to unlock something deep within each of us. That alone inspires me to share it with the rest of the world. There is a story to unlock in each of us. There is a testimony waiting to bring healing to us all.
I would urge them to surround themselves with people who share their same mission and goals for their career in storytelling. Also, I’d tell them to be sure that their intent is always pure and that they take the time to genuinely get to know their guest. Lastly, always be open to enhancing their knowledge and learning new skill sets that will help them communicate and bring about the best way to highlight someone’s story.
My craft creates equity and opportunity because it allows people of all walks to use my platform as a therapeutic outlet to unlock their stories. This then builds courage in others to do the same. Like most public platforms, the opportunity in this craft is endless for the participants and the host. Whether it’s more exposure or access to shared connections, collaborating with media platforms has endless benefits.
What inspired me to tell stories is family. It was my family members and who shared with me their history, living, working, and growing in Detroit. Inherently, I want to reflect their passion and drive through my own work by rebuilding from a multicultural perspective: spreading the love, light, and beauty in the people/cultures through photography.
My advice for people interested in pursuing this career is to not let fear and laziness get in the way of your goals, ambitions, and productivity! The energy you put out there will reflect!
Through the lenses of equity and equality, as a multicultural female I strive to build a community and network alike. Providing and connecting with others to create, vibe, and show the world what we can do when we work together. In that essence, showcase the Love and Light that lives in Detroit.
An arts collective is a group of artists, curators and supporters who work together to support and promote the work of every member of the collective. In the next series meet four Detroit creative arts collectives that are leading the way to access, equity and sustainable change.