We had the good fortune of connecting with Oba William King and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Oba William, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?

Storytelling is an art form in the family of the Traditional Folk Arts. Storytelling is listed as a college/university course complete with Bachelors, Masters, and PHd  (degrees) available nationally and internationally. Although many storytellers are “called” to service, one may pursue the skillsets of a storyteller and develop a financially rewarding, viable business through hard work, dedication, and study.

In the African tradition a Storyteller may also be referred to as Griot or Jali. Although there is quite a bit of reading and research involved in the preparation for storytelling presentations, in the professional arena, reading aloud is generally not allowed during the performance of a storytelling event.

Most professional storytelling events average 45 minutes to 90 minutes featuring one or more presenters, although storytelling can be a 10 to 20 minute component of a larger event. I enjoy producing both solo and ensemble performances. I am Director of JUSTUSarts Educational Entertainment, for community performances or school assemblies I will include, a dancer, a vocalist, and a drummer or other musician. Many storytellers have different objectives, my primary objective through storytelling is to inspire and unite.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed reading and collecting comments and reviews from clients and satisfied customers, Mostly Librarians, Parents, Teachers and sometimes young audience members. Sometimes the insights of the attending audience help me to determine I’m on the correct path to achieve my goals. Occasionally, I may read a statement or testimony that will help me set new goals. Serving the community as an artist is about finding the paths toward relevance, discovering connections, continuously seeking ways to reinvent ones-self, improve delivery, expand presentation content. Sometimes by listening to the comments and suggestions of audience members I can add a sharper focus to my purpose, or fine-tune my mission as a representative of the broader community.

Here are a few comments and reactions to recent performances.

I’m not sure which was more fun during the performance: watching Oba or watching our students respond to Oba! He had over 400 4th and 5th graders captivated using primarily his voice and his drum. Students and staff alike were given a cultural gift through poetry and song. He did a wonderful job tailoring his presentation to our upper elementary students as well as lower elementary students earlier in the day. I’m sure he would do a wonderful job no matter the audience or purpose. I also appreciated his flexibility, professionalism, and friendly demeanor in getting set up at our school. I would recommend him without reservation! ~ Joey Sagel

I was just at the Evanston Storytelling Festival and saw you perform. I loved the drumming, the songs, and the stories. The one I loved was the one about your daughter in line and the man with the low riding pants.
I was watching “Windy City Live” at the gym on Monday and don’t you know they were talking about various communities actually banning this type of dress? One of the hosts finally ended the story by saying, “Just Pull Them Up” Of course I thought of you and your story and song right away and wanted to let you know that your song could start a movement! 🙂 Keep up the good work. I so enjoy your stories. ~ Gail Permenter

I really enjoyed the hour+ I spent last night listening to your stories at the library. That was the first time in a very
long time I’ve done the hokey pokey with my own age group! The whole thing was a lot of fun and educational as well.
I’m listening to Signifying Monkey right now! Now there’s an education! Thanks and welcome to Fort Worth! R. Compton.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM Oba, you are a phenomenal presenter with a deep understanding of history and the importance of sharing African American Culture and Heritage. You’ve been a consistent joy each of the past 4 visits over five years. If there is any way we can help support your efforts to present Fine-Arts programming, please do not hesitate to ask. Sincerely Dr. Shirley Hammond, Director of Education GHWBush Presidential Lib

Thanks for reading and sharing.
Since 2014 Oba William King has operated as a DBA with Duns and FEIN, in the next 2 years he will complete the process of forming a 501c3 non profit organization from his concept of JUSTUSarts Educational Entertainment. Oba plans to focus on training and presenting performances in the Traditional Folk Art of Storytelling.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We’d start out with a little lake fishing, about 20 minutes drive from where I live. We’d buy fresh bait at the corner market and spend the morning hours, with a line in the water (catch & release). For lunch we’d make our way over to Fish City grill, they have an excellent menu of fresh caught fish, seafood, and all the sides. Late afternoon, we’d have a performance at one of the senior centers, or maybe an after school workshop/performance with students from an area middle or high school. Evening dinner at MaDea’s Soul Food Resturant.

If it’s a weekend we drive to Dallas, and find jazz music in the evening. – In the dayme, I like to go to Pan African Connection for the Drum Circle and social networking. When possible, I catch live theatre at the Farr Best Theater in Mansfield

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?

I imagine I could fill two full pages trying to answer this question. Of course my parents were my greatest influence and the directors of my growth and development. After military service, I attended a small community college in Santa Barbara, Ca-where my English language arts instructor Dr. Elenor Flewellen and Kay Fulton, the Dean of Dance both recognized my raw talent as a performer, my oratory skills and vocal gifts in public speaking. they encouraged me to apply for the conservatory near Monterey, Ca- where I studied theatre arts and honed my skills within the production aspects of the arts. Through study and hard work, I focused my efforts on making my way to Chicago, Illinois- the timing was perfect as I arrived in the season of African American renaissance. Sam Greenlee, Dr. Margret Burroughs, Dr. Dorothy Height, Earl Calloway, Okoro Harold Johnson, Abena Joan Brown, Kelan Phil Corhan, and Oscar Brown Jr – each hand a hand in shaping my body of work, the directions I traveled and my choices to represent African American Heritage and Culture as a Hidden Jewel in the Neighborhood, working in the community through the arts. Learning the craft by sitting a the knee of the elders, listening, reading, researching, and learning to stand on my own. Through their tutelage I gained an understanding of African Heritage and respect for the Ancestors. I visited the Motherland, The Republic of Benin, West Africa, I put my hands in the dirt, waded in the water, and received the blessing and honor to carry the name Oba.

Along the way my memberships in the National Association of Black Storytellers, The Illinois Arts Council, The International Storytelling Center, Gospel Way Church. My friendships with Professor Tim Duggan, Mike Lampkin, 2 Brown Sisters, Malik Yusef, Jay Ivy, Coodie Simmons, Garry and Denise Moore, Mark Mark Vaughn, Iyiola Adebajo, Lisa J Williams White, Sharla Beckles, and Jaz Derrick. Also the support of IC Stars, Tom Tresser, People’s Housing, DuSable Museum, Chicago History Museum, The Bronzeville Children’s Museum, The Sun Foundation, The Chicago Association of Black Storytellers, The Black Storytellers Alliance, and currently, Bishop Arts Theatre, The Mansfield Commission on the arts, Farr Best Theater, and Texas Commission on the Arts.

I could spend the rest of my days, telling stories about all the many shoulders I’ve been blessed to stand on, and how they all have never let me down. Before I close, I ask forgiveness of any one who may feel I did not include their name.

Website: https://justusarts.com

Instagram: @storytellingking

Linkedin: Poetic Storyteller

Twitter: #King_Oba

Facebook: JUSTUSarts Educational Entertainment

Youtube: Oba William King

Other: www.ilvmyppl.com

Image Credits
JUSTUSarts, Mark, Iyiola. andKimmy Rayon & Lisa the Vocalist, and Lisa

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