Denise Valentine made her storytelling debut in Philadelphia with Keepers of the Culture, Inc. (KOTC) in 1997. Shortly after, she joined the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. Since then, Ms. Valentine has performed for audiences of all ages at hundreds of schools, libraries, museums and community events.
In 2004, with an award from the Leeway Foundation of Philadelphia (WOO), she traveled to South Africa to study the preservation of folktale traditions.
For more than a decade she was on the roster of The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Arts in Education Directory and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s Commonwealth Speakers Bureau. Denise was featured in The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities (2013).
The Storyteller is featured in The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities (2013), a voiceover for the documentary “Emancipating Cliveden” about Historic Germantown and an appearance on the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Monument telling the story of Ona Judge (2015).
As a result of her research in maritime records, ships logs and rare books, Valentine discovered that the Port of Philadelphia on the Delaware River is one of more than 175 middle passage ports--ports of entry for enslaved Africans during the 350 years of the transatlantic human trade, in 50 nations of North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. In 2013, she founded The Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony & Port Marker Project (PhillyMPC), to gather public support for a historical marker acknowledging Pennsylvania’s role in the slave trade. Each year since then, PhillyMPC has observed Ancestral Remembrance Day on Penn’ Landing commemorating the nearly 2 million Africans who perished in the Middle Passage. On August 5th. 2016 a new historical marker “The Pennsylvania Slave Trade” was unveiled on Penn’s Landing, thanks to a nomination submitted by Charles Blockson, Curator Emeritus of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, with letters of support from the local community. Through PhillyMPC, Valentine continues to compile and disseminate research on the transatlantic slave trade (especially as it relates to Philadelphia). She continues to hold healing and remembrance ceremonies and other events to encourage discussion, reflection and community initiatives toward reconciliation and repair.
Ms. Valentine is the recipient of the Sankofa Research Award (2014) from Linda Goss and Friends of the Artist (FOA). The award funded her journey to South Carolina to find and tell her personal family history. The National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc. awarded her the Harvesting the Collective Award (2016) for her work with storytelling in her community.
Most recently, Denise served as editor and core collaborator on an investigative art project, Philadelphia Assembled, with Dutch artist, Jeanne Van Heeswijk for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
As a youth, Denise participated in various cultural presentations as a member of Soka Gakkai - USA. SGI (a lay-organization of Buddhist and a United Nations NGO promoting peace through education and culture: a chorus of 1000 young women in the World Youth Culture Festival in Hawaii; The Cultural Exhibition of the World’s Ethnic Peoples; the United Nations 50th Anniversary Celebration and Exhibition.
During the 1990’s, she listened to eye-witness accounts of the 1976 Soweto Uprising broadcast weekly over her local radio station in Philadelphia, WDAS-FM. “Amandla! Music of South Africa.” Hosts, James Eoppolo and South African based journalist Sipho Jacobs Ka-Khumalo, explored the role of culture in the mass democratic movement within South Africa. In 1992, she met Godfrey Sithole, a South African in exile. She was inspired by his stories of life under apartheid (and the selfless determination of Nelson Mandela) to attend the National Conference in Support of a Democratic South Africa in New York. Denise became active in the fight against apartheid. When Nelson Mandela came to Philadelphia to accept the Liberty Medal in 1993, she was fortunate to be on the Welcome Committee.
Defining moments like these inspired her to become an activist, and then a storyteller for peace and social change.
Tina Devine said: June 8, 2015
Denise, thank you, thank you, thank you for a most excellent performance. It was at once emotionally intimate, yet the lens through which you view history is vast and inclusive. I learned so much and felt drawn in and connected to your life and work. It was an honor to be part of the audience.
Joanna Hawkins said: February 16th, 2012
Denise, many thanks for doing an excellent job at the Dept. of Labor's Black History Month program yesterday. Your performance was thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance. Thank you for your flexibility and consummate professionalism. Joanna Hawkins
Evelyn Cunningham said: October 4th, 2011
I have just had the wonderful experience of your Website. Sister Queen, I now have a greater sense of your magnificence and your passions. I am so impressed...I was happy to support your efforts to go to South Africa. In Peace and Appreciation Evelyn Anne Cunningham an urban conjure woman
Cheri Maree, Vocalist said: October 4th, 2011
The beauty of your Light is breath taking. Thank you for sharing your gift in such a powerful way and encouraging all of us to step into our Greatness. Continued Blessings.
Joann Frasier Dasent, Storyteller said: October 4th, 2011
Denise, Your grace and consistency in the art of storytelling, is admired by those near and far. Walk talk my sister. A lion does not turn around when a small dog barks. African Proverb. One of your admirers' Auntie Jo Jo "The Storyteller" ROOTS
Kasiya Phiri said: October 4th, 2011
I have put my ear to the wind to hear your wings above my head. Kasiya, Author "The Mother Who Turned to Dust"
Terri Wiley said: October 27th, 2009 Oh my that was so beautiful and educational and wonderful! You were absolutely perfect when you presented and conversed with the students at The Young Women's Leadership School! The girls really loved you and the folktales you shared. I think your participation in Leadership Speaker Series will be a memory that we all remember for time to come! Thank you so much for coming and sharing your time, talents, and gifts!! The day was wonderful because of you!