An African drum and dance workshop will be held in Mount Airy on Saturday, June 18, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Jones Auditorium in Mount Airy.
The event is free and open to all school-aged children. The only requirement is advance registration.
“It’s an educational experience as well for everyone interested in understanding what drumming and dancing mean to African-American people in the past and present,” said Evelyn Thompson, president of event sponsor African-American Historical & Genealogical Society of Surry County.
Hosted by the J.J. Jones High School Alumni Chapter Inc., the workshop is funded in part by the Surry Arts Council Grassroots Program, Division of the Department of Natural Resources.
Thompson said the idea for the workshop stemmed from peoples’ reactions to a Kwanzaa celebration in Raleigh attended by about 30 local residents.
On the bus trip home, participants were surveyed about what they liked best and least.
“When we asked about the drumming and the dancing, hands went up,” Thompson said. “Adults and kids.”
When asked what could be improved about the experience, many indicated they would like more participation.
“At Kwanzaa you’re watching mostly,” Thompson explained. “They knew there was another dimension — being involved.”
The workshop will be led by Tam Tam Mandingue Djembe Academy of Winston-Salem, which is a branch of the world’s first international school of West African drumming.
“This group seems very well prepared,” said Thompson.
Thompson said if enough are interested, subsequent workshops will be scheduled with the ultimate goal of establishing a group who can perform locally and beyond.
Such a group could facilitate the return of a Kwanzaa celebration in Mount Airy, Thompson said.
While Kwanzaa celebrations had been held locally in the past, “they did not have dancing and drumming. That’s the drawing card,” she said.
Thompson mused that the appeal of the dancing and drumming has to do with a sense of interconnectedness it fosters.
“Everyone wants to know who they are, they want to be connected with that which they identify,” she said.
With drumming and dancing, “You’re connected with all the senses,” as opposed to simply reading about history, “or even watching it,” she said.
Hearing the rhythm of the drums and the excitement of the dancing, “It’s the strangest thing,” she said, recalling at the Kwanzaa trip to Raleigh, “one minister said he felt like he was in church.”
Thompson noted that the workshop is open to everyone, “who feels a greater sense of need to connect.”
Historically, “the drums, and I think they will teach this, were used for communication,” Thompson said. “The drums are not just to bang on. They were used to communicate across the way, across the distance.”
The drums and dancing were also used in celebrations and “I can imagine it’s an outlet as well,” she said. “It is a means of coming together. It’s just another experience to help you feel connected.”
Anyone interested in participating should mail their name, address, age, phone number and date to AAHGS, P.O. Box 7144, Mount Airy, N.C. 27030.
For more information, call 334-786-4922 or 336-508-2121.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.