Planned Parenthood continues its service with help from Twisted Storytellers (Examiner)

Published October 26, 2012 on

By Wendy Clem, Detroit City Buzz Examiner.


Published: 10.26.12| Updated: 10.27.12

With a primary foray into oral communications during our collective youth, the importance of storytelling never really leaves us. Over the years, we veer through shared adventures, gossip and community building, and life lessons — today most frequently engaging in the more staccato-like social media speak.

Storytelling, it seems, is a life art that transforms well into our adult years and comes to stay.

The recent Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan (PPMSM) fundraiser, held at Detroit’s Magic Stick venue, spotlighted this important method of human sharing. In An Evening of Stories From Life’s Surprises, The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers (TSSOTS) provided five riveting performances.

The Detroit event was set to candlelight, with the evening musically punctuated by Cello-Bella!, a melodic pairing of Alison Donahue on cello and clear, lead vocals backed by Mike Wilhelm on electric guitar and well-matched vocal harmony.

The five storytellers who each opened a vein touched the lives and hearts of all present. The 10-minute presentations were an exercise in angst, humor, sharing and the human experience, some of which encompassed issues encountered at Planned Parenthood, like post-partum depression. Life stories of surviving home foreclosure, drug addiction and rehabilitation, failed relationships and questionable parenting, catastrophic illness, and triumph over fear and failure dominated. The life-affirming sharing created enthusiastic appreciation that fed the performers as well as the engaged audience.

The cathartic evening began with one woman’s dream.

“I founded TSSOTS because, as a theatre buff, I knew there was a place for it,” said Satori Shakoor, a Detroit resident, formerly known as Jeanette McGruder. “Stories really help us to connect with each other and create a sense of community; human journeys connect us.”

She found it necessary to create the group, says Shakoor, after writing a tongue-in-cheek tale centered on the memoir of The Virgin Mary at the rebellious age of 13. Shakoor realized her humorous treatise required a “special” type of listener, one who could be enriched by the vision rather than merely judge its edginess.

Shakoor’s long list of accomplishments is impressive by any measure: professional violinist at age 15; singer for The Funkadelics/The Parliaments/Brides of Funkenstein; award-winning actress and published playwright; international theatre founder and much more. She is a regular contributor at The Moth Radio Hour on NPR and hosts Ann Arbor’s monthly Moth Story Slam.

Her fellow masters of their craft made the oft-battered Planned Parenthood the true star of the night as benefactor of the successful event.

When Shakoor approached Planned Parenthood’s Director of Community and Media relations Desiree Cooper, their idea was to combine homegrown talent with help for a beleaguered organization that has particularly received hits during the 2012 national presidential election. With women’s reproductive rights and general health and wellbeing a common political refrain this year, Planned Parenthood has been on the front lines for kneejerk reactions to cut funding by many who aren’t fully aware of the services it offers.

For almost 100 years, Planned Parenthood has worked to be a trusted healthcare provider and educator as well as advocate of the individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about sex, health and family planning. This effort is expended to women, men and teens, and one in five American women will seek out Planned Parenthood during her life for professional, confidential and nonjudgmental health care.

Ninety-seven percent of what PPMSM provides is essential preventive care, from annual exams, cancer screenings, breast health, birth control and testing/treatment/counseling for STDs and HIV/AIDS to treatment options for women with abnormal Pap tests.

“Our Planned Parenthood serves 17 centers in 31 counties across Michigan, assisting 83 percent of the state’s population — and 5,000 people just through the Detroit location,” said Cooper, a resident of West Bloomfield. ”Last year, our Mid- and South-Michigan centers served nearly 70,000 Michigan women, men and teens from Detroit to Benton Harbor.”

Help for patients is given regardless of insurance access. In fact, says Cooper, although Planned Parenthood is known to help the uninsured and others via a sliding-scale fee method, growing numbers of insured people also seek the services. Most patients are under the age of 45, although 70 percent are between 20 and 34.

Vendors at An Evening of Stories From Life’s Surprises included the sparkling shirts of detroit snob, author Anita T. Gibbs and her Superdaddies children’s books, and the cuff-bracelet fashion originals of Heavenly Honies.

For more information about Planned Parenthood in Mid and South Michigan, go to or call (734) 926.4800 or (800) 230.PLAN. The group can be found on Facebook at PlannedParenthoodMidSouthMi and Twitter @ppmsm.

Donations are also welcome online at

To learn more about the Twisted Storytellers, go to and Facebook at

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