Dasha Kelly is a powerhouse of creativity, action and compassion. She is an accomplished writer, spoken word artist, mentor and more.
Kelly is the founder and director of the Still Waters Collective, a resource network for storytellers. Recently, she started co-emceeing Ex Fabula Storytelling events with Leah Delaney.
Kelley has published a novel, "All Fall Down," and three audio compilations of her original poetry. In early 2015 she will publish another novel.
"Written Word" magazine named her one of the Top 10 Up-and-Coming Writers of the Midwest.
Kelly has opened concerts for comedians Tommy Davidson and Damon Williams and neo-soul artist Angie Stone. In 2007, Dasha appeared on the sixth season of "HBO presents Russell Simmons' 'Def Poetry Jam.'"
OnMilwaukee.com recently caught up with Kelly and talked about her past, her present and her future.
OnMilwaukee.com: When and how did you become involved with Ex Fabula?
Dasha Kelly: I stumbled across a video of a story slam and jumped into the Internet vortex looking for more. I pledged to launch a series here in Milwaukee but, alas, there are only so many hours in the day. As always, the universe was listening – and knows best – and I discovered Ex Fabula at the end of its first or second season. I offered myself up as a teller and, soon, volunteer and board member.
Artistically, I welcomed the diversion from spoken word that story telling offered. Also, the "art" elements are less intimidating than performance poetry and so many more people would have the opportunity and bravery to participate. As a community builder, I know that personal stories have the power to shrink any sized room.
OMC: What else is new in your life, personally and / or professionally? Any goals for the New Year?
DK: I'm crazy excited for the New Year to arrive. My novel, "Almost Crimson" (Curbside Splendor) hits bookshelves across the country in May. I'm partnering with Renaissance Theater Works to lead a series of women's empowerment / writing workshops. The young scribes in my Teen Poetry Slam State Finals will showcase at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts for the first time. I'll be hitting the road next summer and fall for a book signing and performance tour.
As for New Year’s goals: my sister is gifting me her abandoned treadmill, so I'm optimistic about winter workouts and I'm, slowly but surely, figuring out what to do with quinoa.
OMC: What accomplishments in your past make you most proud?
DK: It's been 15 years since I launched my first open mic. Adults, youth, artists, executives, teachers, inmates – I’ve been granted the opportunity to create platforms where people feel inspired to speak and encouraged by what they've heard. I've seen many unlikely dots connect and flourish over the years. One microphone, one conference table, one story, one poem, one hug, one cup of coffee, one wrinkled sheet of notebook paper at a time, I'm most proud of the community that I've been a part of building.
OMC: Did you grow up in Milwaukee?
DK: I'm an Army brat, so Milwaukee was always "home base." Although I was born here at St. Joseph’s I didn't come to live in Milwaukee until my mid 20s and learned the city as a transplant would.
My Milwaukee roots, however, are strong. Both parents hail from the city, so plenty of family is here. In fact, my maternal grandmother, Glorious Malone, was the first African American woman to be certified by the USDA to run a meat plant. My mother now runs the business.
OMC: What are some of your thoughts about Milwaukee? How can we make this fine city better?
DK: I have many thoughts about Milwaukee, most of them make my heart ache. I am often frustrated with the city's characteristic complacency. "It's always been this way" is not an effective game plan, especially concerning our city's many gross and glaring disparities. I'd like to see a continued effort to engage new voices, progressive strategies and unlikely thought leaders in our city's discussions and evaluations.
OMC: Anything else you’d like to add?
DK: Ummmm, I welcome any size donations to help the 2015 team of youth poets attend the 17th annual Brave New Voices Festival and Competition in Atlanta this summer. Here's a link.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.