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Bio with Venues
As a youngster Diane Ferlatte was steeped in the oral tradition. Her early childhood years in Louisiana were spent on her grandparent's porch with family and neighbors swapping stories, lies, and tales. She fondly recalls fishing in the bayou, making hoecake bread, and listening to her raconteur father tell the family’s news, history, and all the old antebellum tales that had been passed down to him. It was there that she first heard the stories of Brer Rabbit, High John the Conqueror, and other tales of the African American slave era for which she is now so well known.
As she grew older after migrating to California, Diane played the piano and sang in church choirs, performed in various stage productions, and became proficient in American Sign Language, all of which contributed to her completely unforeseen career preserving and promoting the African American oral tradition in a variety of forms. Those seeds of storytelling that were planted back in Louisiana began to sprout as she married and became a mother.
Reminiscing about the stories of her youth, Diane began to sing the spirituals and tell her children the stories she heard as a child. 35 years ago, Diane adopted a four year old who had been raised in a series of homes in front of a TV. In order to wean him from TV and get him to attend to the nightly reading and storytelling his sister so enjoyed, Diane had to return to her own childhood roots. She recognized how important those stories were and also began to share them with her community. Before she knew it, she was telling children at her church, then at local schools, then libraries throughout California, and now at storytelling festivals and other venues all over the world.
Now an internationally renowned storyteller, Diane has traveled the globe, from Europe to Singapore & Malaysia, from Australia & New Zealand to Colombia, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, Turkey, Jamaica, India and of course all over the United States. She believes that telling and listening to each other’s stories not only enables us to learn about each other, but also to understand each other better. She views storytelling as a traditional art form that can promote literacy, imagination, and values in the young. While emphasizing African American stories, she loves to tell stories that hold truths touching upon our common humanity, including personal and historical stories. Having a background in music as well as American Sign Language, Diane frequently incorporates both into her performances. Erik Pearson, her musical sidekick, often accompanies Diane on banjo & guitar.
Diane has received numerous honors including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award, the National Association of Black Storytellers' Zora Neale Hurston Award, The Friends of Negro Spirituals Heritage Keepers Award, as well as the California Arts Council’s highest ranking. In addition to receiving a 2008 Grammy nomination, all of her recordings have received other awards including multiple Parents’ Choice, American Library Association, National Parenting Publications, iParenting Media, Children's Music Web, and Storytelling World Awards. Among her most exciting performances are her numerous appearances at both the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, and the Internationales Storytelling Festival in Graz, Austria, as well as the First International Festival to Commemorate the End of Slavery, on Goree Island, Senegal, and performing for President Clinton at his first inauguration.
In addition to many schools, libraries, & conferences, a sample of recent performance venues include:
Adult programs include:
The Missing Rib, The Spirit of Women; celebrating the strengths and unique gifts of women.
Haunted Bayou; ghostly tales, spirits have souls too.
Penny For Your Thoughts; Diane's transformational personal stories of breaking down walls & building bridges between races & cultures.
School/Library/Family Programs include:
Aesop: Alive and Well; the fables & story of Aesop brought to life with music & song.
Wickety Whack, Brer Rabbit is Back; from the mouths of slaves--stories that helped us to survive.
African Story Magic; from the land of the ancestors, stories with lessons for today.
The Dream of a King; Stories & songs that honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
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