When Janice Inabinett told her aunt that she had decided to become a storyteller, her aunt laughed. “What do you mean become a storyteller? You’ve always been a storyteller.” Inabinett, a Bryson City native, took this philosophy to heart. She combines her art with her professional skills as a social worker, inviting others to find their voices as storytellers and to use stories as a tool to affect change in their lives and communities.
Inabinett believes that a storyteller’s most important skill is being a good listener, and many of the family stories that she heard growing up in Swain County figure in her repertoire today. She also draws upon this experience as an example to help other families preserve their heritage. Recently she was engaged by a family on the occasion of their matriarch’s hundredth birthday to guide them in the process of compiling their oral history. Over the course of the project, which lasted for several months, Inabinett helped them not only to record a huge book’s worth of stories and family history, but to heal old family rifts that had made communication between branches of the family difficult.
Through the Martin Luther King, Jr., Storytellers’ Guild, a project of the Andrews-based social justice organization One Dozen Who Care, Inabinett has been involved in encouraging and training community members to learn the history of African Americans in western North Carolina, and to share these stories with schoolchildren, women’s groups, and others during Black History Month and year-round.
Janice Inabinett is a charter member of the Asheville Storytelling Guild, a co-founder of the Western North Carolina Storytelling! Conference, and is a member of the National Storytelling Network.
Janice Inabinett is available to lead workshops in the art of storytelling. Beginning in 2007, she will lead walking tours of Bryson City, by appointment, in which she will share with visitors the stories and heritage of her home town.