Griots, as they are known in West Africa, are part of the traveling storyteller’s tradition, much like the Minstrel’s of Europe. From town to town, Griots share history through poems and songs. It is this oral art form that local artist, educator, and activist Logic Amen has introduced to Seattle through a series of get-togethers aimed at providing dialogue, acceptance, and healing for communities he feels have been damaged by a lack of education, gentrification, and even self-hatred for far too long.
According to Logic, the idea for the Griot events came to him when he appeared as a guest speaker at the Women of Wonder Festival in 2017. Attending at the invitation of his close friend Veronica Very, Logic was impressed and inspired by the focus on safe space and healing through shared stories of overcoming personal tragedies and graduating to a new state of being. Seeing the value of what the women were doing, Logic was inspired to bring the same healing spirit to a broader audience, welcoming men and women to commune together in a safe place.
There is no regular schedule or location for the Griot parties, and over the last two years they have taken place at 4 or 5 house parties, 3 rooftops, and 7-8 theater shows at the Historic Columbia City Theater. Generally, these are 21+ events, as often alcohol is served onsite.
However, the most recent event was entitled Youth Griot and was open to teens and young adults, with students coming from as far away as Tacoma to attend.
Logic describes what happens at the event as a combination of a funeral reception, dance party, and spoken word gala. He emphasizes that it’s something you have to experience to fully understand. Each party starts with about an hour of mingling, with a nice musical groove provided by live Dj’s (Cliff Barnes aka Seabefore, and George Yasutake aka Surreal), then Logic engaging the group with his own story and the history of the Griot, before opening the floor to open discussion and sharing time.
Local celebrities, educators, and advocates are known to appear at the Griots, such as Ralph Cole, Isaiah Anderson, Tia Yarborough-Fields, and Tiffany Crutcher. Dialogue can run deep in this honest, open forum aimed at self-expression, release, and healing. Intertwined within the sharing of personal stories, is the interjection of poetry and music performed with the use of African drums and a Kora.
Attendees at the last event had a special treat ~ a performance and personal griot from YouTube sensation and S.W.A.T. actor Deshae Frost. Deshae shared his story about the struggles he faced before finding success, which included homelessness, and encouraged listeners to continue following their dreams no matter the cost.
Logic has dreams of expanding Griot parties to other areas outside of the Greater Seattle area, including a desire to host something in Portland. Logic also hopes to bring in more established artists and educators, such as hometown heroes Sir Mixalot and Angela Rye to name a few on his wish-list. Larger venues and new partnerships with sponsors and city leaders are also on his list.
The next event is tentatively scheduled for August 16th at the Columbia Theater, with the doors opening at 7pm. Keep an eye on your social media for confirmation and/or updates.