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Drums 4 Life strikes a beat of cultural celebration at Walter Bickett Elementary

In celebration of Black History Month, Walter Bickett Elementary welcomed a special guest: Drums 4 Life, a nonprofit organization promoting empowerment and healing through the rhythmic pulse of African drumming. Led by director Kojo Bey, Drums 4 Life brought the vibrant sounds of traditional African drumming and a profound message of cultural education and unity.

Bey's upbringing in New York immersed him in drumming and dance through his family's involvement in a troupe. However, upon relocating to an area where such cultural activities were less common, he recognized the importance of exposing others to these traditions. He founded the group more than 20 years ago to share this rich cultural heritage. Part of his vision was to bring it to schools.

The visit wasn't just about showcasing musical talent; it was an interactive experience designed to engage students in fun and educational ways. Bey refers to this approach as "edutainment" – a fusion of education and entertainment that ensures participants learn and enjoy themselves.

"You can learn through the arts. There are many subjects covered within our presentation. In addition to cultural enrichment and music, we taught geography, spelling, English, math and social studies," said Bey.

"These types of presentations bring more knowledge to us. It helps people understand other cultures," said Mia Davis, a fifth grader. "I love how synced the drums are with the dancing. My favorite part was the dancing."

The rhythmic sounds of the drums filled the cafeteria as they echoed. Two dancers from Drums 4 Life took the stage, showcasing traditional African dances with grace and energy. Their performance inspired cheers and applause. Afterward, they invited eager students and staff to join them in learning the rhythmic steps, turning the cafeteria into a bustling dance floor filled with joy and laughter.

"All the rhythms and beats were amazing. Learning that all the performers were his children was awesome," said Madison Luis Degante, a fourth grader. "It's good to learn the history and traditions of other parts of the world. I was not dancing, but I was singing." 

Principal Alfred Leon expressed his gratitude for the enlightening experience provided by Drums 4 Life. "It's essential for our students to learn about Black history and to experience it firsthand," he said. "Drums 4 Life has done an incredible job of not only entertaining our students but also enriching their understanding of African culture and the significance of drumming in its traditions."

The performance was made possible by the Arts in Bloom Educator Grant from the Union County Community Arts Council.