More presentations by damali ayoVisit damali's website


You Have to Mess with People (But don't let them mess with you) is a multi-media presentation using strong visuals and memorable stories. Audience members leave not only knowing damali's story, but knowing themselves and each other in a new way.

The presentation can be paired with a workshop or “tea time” where participants can ask in-depth questions and get specific insight and help with their personal challenges.


Bring damali's story to your community.

More presentations by damali ayo


damali is so completely genuine and refreshingly real and human.
She gave me a sense of relief from remembering that I am not alone in my pain, anxiety and weariness. It is strangely uplifting and rejuvenating to be reminded that others are going through the same struggles. Thank you, damali, for being in this world and making it a better place.” - John Peña, artist


"damali took the time to really talk and listen
to our students...Having damali here helped empower students
in a very different way." - Sarah Lawrence College


We will be transformed by this experience."
- Colby College



“With students, teachers, administrators and the community damali allowed us to think, feel, respond and create. She created strong discussions but also offered a safe place to explore unsaid truths.

damali inspired and encouraged our students’ strong voices to speak out and share the issues truly important to them. Further, sharing her personal story candidly allowed others to open up and tell their own stories.”
- Lindsay Pinchbeck, Sweet Tree Arts

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"The "Flesh-Tone experiment"

From panhandling on the streets for reparations, to asking paint mixers to match different parts of my skin, to hanging two of my dreadlocks in an art gallery with the sign, “your big chance, you can touch my hair.” I have engaged some of the most difficult social issues through creative art, performance, and a fearless way of looking our culture directly in the eye.

Along the way I have learned a lot of important lessons about what works, what doesn’t and what personal price we can pay when we are passionate about making the world a better place.

This fun presentation shares conceptual art, activism, radio, and writing to inspire activists of all ages to be creative in the way they challenge people and advocate for change, while avoiding burnout by creating a support system, implementing self-care techniques, and cultivating a sense of humor.

"damali is Engaging, warm and amazingly energetic." -Portland State University

"damali is the most real person I have ever met."
"I had so many epiphanies during her visit."
- Holy Cross College

damali ayo is the author of two books, several essays for National Public Radio and contributor to four anthologies. She has delivered keynote presentations to thousands of people across North America. damali and her work have been featured in over 100 publications world-wide including Harpers, the Village Voice,, the Washington Post, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, Redbook Magazine, and Book TV. She even held her own across the table from Bill O’Reilly on his television show.

An expert story-teller, damali’s books and presentations offer humor, insight, and creativity and make our culture's toughest topics manageable and fun. How to Rent a Negro was acclaimed as "one of the most trenchant and amusing commentaries on contemporary race relations." It was granted a 2005 Honorable Mention in the Outstanding Book Awards from the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights. Obamistan! Land without Racism: Your Guide to the New America debunks the myth of a post-race world. She is a member of "The Black Panel" in Baratunde Thurston's How To Be Black, has a chapter in the book Reality Radio and was interviewed by Davy Rothbart in Found II. Her monthly diary to her readers, The Blessings, shares personal stories about creativity, healing, and faith. damali is a dynamic personality who brings energy, inspiration, and positivity wherever she goes.