2016

Grant Recipients

African Americans

Heritage Works

Detroit Griot

$25,000 • Detroit

Detroit Griot was designed to engage people of Detroit and surrounding communities in the exploration of cultural and oral traditions as well as personal and community histories. Detroit Griot began by introducing Malinke and Wolof oral traditions to young Detroiters by hosting griot Assane Kouyate and his accompanists via a one-year residency. From the lineage of Kouyates that served the Malian King Sounjata Keita in the 1200s, Mr. Kouyate is from a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa. The project used the positive, transformative nature of the arts and humanities to build connections between youth, elders, traditional and contemporary oral art forms, and African American, African, and other Detroit area communities. Oral historian Leslie Williams, President of the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society, trained youth in collecting personal and community histories. Youth then worked with Kouyate to weave those Detroit narratives with songs, poetry, and stories in the West African Griot tradition, creating a work of orature. With additional input from new media and digital scholar Mike Magadin, the youth crafted these stories into symbolic documents and videos that brought new contexts to Detroit history and youth voices.