Observation Offered of Recent Drumming for Peace Event at Fort Frederik Museum

As the setting sun cast its last golden rays upon the western shore of St. Croix Sunday afternoon, Dec. 7, a line of a dozen or so drummers, young and old and in between, led by master drummer Olu Massey, strode slowly out of Fort Frederik Museum courtyard and made their way across the western lawn. The participants were led up a ramp onto the grass-covered landing in between the cannons where once Danish sailors scoured the seas watching for the approach of possible enemy ships.
A cruise ship slowly backed away from the Frederiksted pier, allowing the full bloom of the setting sun to lend a calming serenity to the standing and sitting elders — men, women and children who came at sunset to commemorate the event dubbed “Drumming for Peace.”
One of the event’s principal organizers, Carolyn Keys, expressed both her enthusiasm and humility for the good turnout for the event postponed two weeks earlier because of rain. Keys informed the crowd that the event is a fund raiser for the newly-founded and organized Community Peace Center. Those in attendance were given a brief history of the background of the Peace Center.
“We are a consortium of people who envision a better society without violence…caring, sharing and guided by trust,” Keys intoned. The event was sponsored by the Peace Center with the help of volunteers and partially funded by Virgin Islands Council on the Arts and the National Foundation for the Arts. .
Beginning at 4 p.m. with the pouring of libations, an African tradition as old as the drum itself, the crowd was then treated to excellent renditions of Caribbean cultural and reggae music by the young members of the Police Athletic League (PAL) band called Mind, Body and Soul, under the devotion and supervision of Bro. Reinhold “Rookie” Jackson.
A craft table set up beneath a large tent invited participants to try their hands at making a hula-hoop peace symbol or other crafts to be hung in their home, class room, or shared as a gift. Books on and about peace and other materials were on display. Local natural juices, refreshments and raffle tickets for prizes donated by artists and some local businesses were on sale to benefit the Peace Center.
Ingrid Bough, Territorial Director of Libraries, Museums and Archives, enthralled the crowd with her stirring account of how she used the drum when she was a public school music teacher. She then shared a CD, “The Path,” by the drumming and musical genius Ralph McDonald, one of the moving forces behind the popularization of the drum and Caribbean music in the world, during the 60s and 70s.
Olu Massey II, the leader of Adrian Edwards and his Drum Ensemble Drumming Circle, Ashe Akoma Drumming Circle (of only women), attorney and former judge Alphonso Andrews, and NebKaRa shared their personal experiences via engaging and moving testimonials. All made reference to the drum as a major teaching tool in keeping children and youth aware of their Caribbean and African roots. The music of Master Drummer Babatundi Olatunji was featured between different performances.
The Per Ankh Bamboula Drummers and Dancers were the final performers and aptly so. The power, majesty and sheer spiritual energy created by the group had everyone on their feet dancing, swaying, clapping their hands, laughing, all in harmony with the power of the drum.
In closing, Keys thanked everyone for coming and then asked all to stand together forming a circle by each saying a positive, peaceful word while grasping the right thumb of the individual standing on his right. Many expressed doubt that it could be completed with so many people participating. After the circle was indeed completed a special moment of silence filled Fort Frederik and beyond and left all with a feeling that they had indeed experienced a memorable community event.
“We have already begun planning next year’s Drumming for Peace event” was the parting message of the Drumming for Peace committee.
This was contributed by Etherero Akinshegun, major contributor and worker on this event. Thanks to Etherero and to all the others who contributed.

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