"damali had a profound impact on us.
We will be transformed."
-Colby College

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About me.

“damali has a story for everything.”
A friend once said this about me. I am not sure if he meant it as a compliment or a criticism. Either way, it is true. I put my life on the page, on the stage, and together we all think, feel, and grow.

As a speaker, author, radio essayist, and visual artist, the true stories of my life are central to all I do. Two audience members recently said "damali is the most real person I have ever met." and "I had so many epiphanies during her visit."

Every time I share a story with an audience or reader, a perspective shifts, an isolation is breached, or laughter is shared. Frequently people pass along the stories I tell to others as they seek to connect, expand, and heal.

It is in building connections between our experiences that the human world is brought closer to each other and through which we see true progress. Telling my stories has always been a part of healing myself and the world around me.

What is a garden of stories?
The stories I share are like plants in a rich, well-composted garden. I have a developed a revealing and honest perspective on the life I have lived and observed, a sort of intimate distance, if that is possible. As I look over these stories certain ones speak to me- they ask to be told. I cultivate each of these, fertilize them, prune them, and tend to them until they are ready to leave my garden and become a part of your world. I offer them to you in the hopes that they might brighten up a room or two in your life.


“So much talent, wit and connectivity, all tied to a big heart.”
- Portland State University



Here's my media-style bio:
damali ayo and her work have been featured in publications world-wide including Harpers, the Village Voice, Salon.com, the Washington Post, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, Redbook Magazine, The O'Reilly Factor, and Book TV. As a keynote speaker she travels the country, engaging audiences to think, feel, and heal through difficult community and personal challenges. She is the author of two books, How to Rent a Negro and Obamistan! which were playful yet biting satirical examinations of race relations. damali is a contributor to four other books, and has done several stories for NPR and Public Radio International. damali was a contributor to the reboot of the historic This I Believe radio series, as well as a repeat guest panelist on NPR's Weekend America. Her writing, art, and lectures have engaged topics ranging from race, gender, sexual assault, and sexual orientation to spirituality, chronic illness, the creative process, healing, music, and trash.

An expert story-teller, damali offers humor, insight, and creativity to 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 letter 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. Through her trademark humor, bolstered by a remarkably vulnerable and open telling of her stories, damali shows her audience that life is an ongoing process of growth and evolution.