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What is Detroit Narrative Agency?

The stories we tell about a place form a kind of DNA– shaping what that place is and what it can become.

Detroit Narrative Agency (DNA) was founded in 2015, by ill weaver and adrienne maree brown, with help from Jeanette Lee from Allied Media Projects, with a primary focus on disrupting harmful narratives about Detroit. For too long, the stories that circulated about Detroit defined it as broken, violent, and in need of saving from itself. After Detroit’s emergence from bankruptcy in 2014, there was a new strand of stories about Detroit: stories of resurgence led by white billionaires, scrappy entrepreneurs, and pioneering artists. Invisible from that narrative was the Detroit that was saving itself all along, the Detroit that pushed back against marginalization and erasure, the Detroit that had a vision for the future based in liberation and justice

The Detroit Narrative Agency is amplifying that Detroit, incubating authentic and compelling stories that shift the dominant narratives about this place by putting the power of story back in the hands of Black, Indigenous, People of Color. We focus on non-extractive media storytelling, centering and amplifying the voices of our city, and providing skillbuilding opportunities within film and media production with a focus on community impact. DNA also contributes to the growth of the film and media ecosystem in the Detroit area and globally.

DNA is currently directed by Ryan Pearson, Executive Artistic Director.

We build narrative power in Detroit.

Detroit Narrative Agency supports and develops media-based storytelling centering Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to foster collective healing, power, and liberation.

We envision a world where Detroit is a hub for BIPOC communities to tell stories authentically through media.

Powerful Storytelling

We view storytelling as a way to fuel personal agency and strengthen community. We apply anti-oppression principles to our approach.



People & Place Based Relationships

We acknowledge the relationship to the indigenous land we are on, and honor the people and history of Detroit.

Radical Creativity

We affirm the creativity of BIPOC storytellers and create a space for learning and experimentation. We have a culture of challenge and support, while applying ethical practices within media.


We honor a range of entry points and cultivate talent, while helping participants grow their creative confidence, and contextualizing and unlearning oppressive systems.

DNA Values

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Diop Russell is a filmmaker, podcaster, and writer from Detroit, MI. She loves telling stories about reparations, family, healing, and home. Guided by a Black queer feminist perspective, she creates liberating and imaginative depictions of marginalized people. Diop was a 2020 finalist in the Detroit Narrative Agency’s Radical Remedies Screening. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Spelman College, where she co-founded the Spelman College English Department Film Club, co-hosted The Blue Record podcast, and researched as a UNCF Mellon/Mays Undergraduate Fellow.

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