2016 Featured Tellers

2016 flier
The 34th “In the Tradition...” 
Annual National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference


Philadelphia, PA, November 2-6, 2016.





Mitchell Capel and Sonny Kelly are “a force to be reckoned with” as they bring to life a fraction of the untold stories of the hundreds of thousands of unsung heroes…heroes whose glory and honor have remained unspoken for entirely too long. With its powerfully poetic embodiment of these rare stories, framed by a multi-media presentation, this experience leaves audiences breathlessly enlightened and ultimately encouraged. Featuring the original work of Paul Laurence Dunbar, William Cullen Bryant, Raymond Garfield Dandridge, Dr. Rex Ellis and others, this work brings to life an array of African American soldiers, their stories and their struggles.





Andrea, a member of ASE Chicago Association of Black Storytellers uses her unique voice to create an ambience for her stories that audiences welcome.  Her Afrocentric repertoire includes folktales, historical, personal and original stories. Andrea believes that storytelling is her ministry and delights in bringing an  awareness of the Black experience and history to her audiences. She has performed at Chicago’s African Arts Festival, the Women’s Harvest Festival and the Illinois Storytelling Festival.





An award winning, international storyteller, Diane’s generous spirit is as powerful as her dynamic characterizations, interactions with the audience and animated expressions. Diane is a traditional preserver of folk history, culture and values. She tells folktales, fables, legends, historical, contemporary and personal stories with African, African American and Southern roots. Diane has performed in over 20 countries, including Kenya, Jamaica, India, Turkey and New Zealand. She is the recipient of the National Storytelling Network's Oracle 2002 Circle of Excellence Award and The National Association of Black Storytellers’ Zora Neale Hurston Award. And yes, Wickety Whack, Brer Rabbit is Back, along with The Knee High Man and Brer Tiger and the Big Wind.





Over twenty years ago, storyteller, Emily Lansana and vocalist, Glenda Zahra Baker came together to form Performance Duo: In the Spirit. Based in Chicago, they have developed an extensive repertoire of stories that carry their audiences on enthralling journeys.  Each performance celebrates the power of the word to connect, uplift and transform. They have been recognized for their commitment to community and their vision for change.  They have worked with people of all ages, faiths, and cultures from homeless shelters to universities. They remain focused on the belief that creative expression can be an important vehicle for transformation. Their extensive repertoire includes: African and African American Folktales (The Cow-Tail Switch, Those Who Ride the Wind The); Stories from History (The Selma March, Civil Rights Sit-Ins, Henry Box Brown); Inspirational Stories (Waangari Maathi, Open Hand, Open Heart) and Personal Stories (Family Memories, Love Stories, Honoring Our Fathers). Performance highlights include the “In the Tradition…” National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference, the National Storytelling Festival, the Minneapolis Black Storytellers Festival, the Detroit Storytelling Festival, Amherst College Storytelling Festival and The Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum.





Sonny Kelly is a world class performer, storyteller, motivator, speaker and comedian. Sonny has acted professionally on stage and television for over 20 years. He is also a writer and director of live theater as well as the creator and co-host of the CrossOver radio show on WIDU Radio in Fayetteville, NC. As a professional storyteller, he won the National Association of Black Storytellers’, famed Liars’ contest in 2014 and performed at the Black Storytellers’ Alliance, Signifyin and Testifyin’ Festival in Minnesota, as well as schools, businesses and civic organizations across the country. Sonny is a co-founder of SonnyRey Productions, LLC, a production company specializing in inspirational and educational family friendly entertainment. Sonny has performed for benefits, galas, church gatherings, and civic events both large and small.  His infectious energy and hilarious characterizations are always crowd pleasers. Always positive. Always fun.  With a hint of inspiration and a dash comedic insanity this California young man gone Southern gentleman will have you rolling!





Denise Valentine, Professional Storyteller, Teaching Artist and Historical performer made her storytelling debut with Keepers of the Culture, Inc. (KOTC) in 1997. Since then, Ms. Valentine has performed for audiences of all ages at hundreds of schools, libraries, museums and community events. In 2004, with a Leeway award, she traveled to South Africa to study the preservation of folktale traditions. Denise Valentine’s storytelling performance illustrates the power of story to transcend differences between people, transform negativity and inspire hope. In a captivating voice, she combines historical narrative with folktales and mother wit. In 2014, Denise was a featured presenter at the Ananse Sound Splash in Jamaica, West Indies. In 2015, Denise was a featured performer at Pete Seeger’s Clearwater Great River Festival.  Currently, she is on the roster of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Arts in Education Directory for Southeast Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s Commonwealth Speakers Bureau. 




For more than twenty-five years Atiba Kwabena has studied the folklore of Afrika and its western-hemispheric diaspora.  Along with the members of Songhai Djeli and the Befo’Quotet, Atiba has performed and lectured throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Afrika.  Atiba believes that “music, poetry, storytelling and dance have always been utilized to ritualize the history of Afrikan people. These rituals help to relive the experiences of the ancestors and to learn from the wisdom they have gained.” Atiba is the founder and artistic director of Songhai Djeli and Befo’Quotet. He has lectured at Hunter College on the subjects of the“African Origins of Hip-Hop” and the “African Origins of the Blues”. He has contributed to several anthologies, including Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (edited by Tony Medina and Louis Reyes Rivera (2001) and Let Loose On The World: Celebrating Amiri Baraka at 75 (2009).

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