Current members:

L-R: La Tanya Carmical, Sandy Mills, Nina Roberts, Charlene Gumbs, Shawn Nealy-Oparah, Mar Stevens
(kneeling) Jillian Lyles, Mya Cross

Rhythm Sistas Women of Color Drum Circle

On October 17, 2009, Rhythm Sistas Drum circle held its final circle of the year at Mosswood Park. It was a beautiful autumn day and the circle was well attended by over 30 drummers from 16 months to 83 years of age. Sista Nahi opened the circle in her special way of connecting us with nature, spirit, and the ancestors.
The circle had many interesting park visitors that day, including a future politico Mr. Candell, who is running for Mayor of Oakland. The pulsating strains of the heartbeat rhythm could be heard from many blocks away as witnessed by Rashida who heard and answered the call. Rhythm Sistas Mar, Charlene, Nahi, and Sandy kept the beat strong.
Women and children drummed together to claim their lineage and promote collective healing. Mandisa led dancing in the middle of the circle with passion and grace. Before closing the circle, the drummers gave a birthday tribute to Mar and Mandisa, and to the other Libra’s of September and October.
The Rhythm Sistas, Charlene, Mar, Monica, Nahi, and Sandy would like to thank all those who have supported and attended the drum circle in 2009. We will be back in 2010 to continue the healing medicine that flows through the drum.

--Sandy Mills

Sharing Rhythms in Ritual

This past Sunday, October 4, Sistahs of the Drum were an integral part of the music ministry at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church. Missing in action were Mar Stevens and Sandy Mills (celebrating family bdays). Simbwala, Rosetta, Zenju Earthlyn and I represented for the group and carried the rhythms that have been passed on to us through our various teachers.

We all agreed that this was a mutually beneficial sharing of our time and talent. We were exceptionally well received by the parishioners (they even stood up and danced during the last song) and we appreciated experiencing the way Lakeshore Avenue Baptist worships.

The church body is very diverse (a great representation of the neighborhood it sits in), very receptive and warm. The building itself has amazing acoustics. From the moment we walked in it was clear that this was a good fit for us. We knew going in that our intention was to be in ritual and not performance. The energy of the service is very laid back and antics. The energy we drummed with was powerful, but not overpowering. Intention realized.

Sistahs at Lakeshore Baptist Church, October 4, 2009

Sistahs of the Drum will be supporting the music ministry of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church on Sunday, October 4, 2009. We have been asked to share our rhythms as a part of their celebration of multi-culturalism. Come out and enjoy the service.

10:00 AM

October 4, 2009

3534 Lakeshore Ave.
Oakland, CA 94610

Healing Drum Meditation


Drum Meditation - In using a djembe or ngoma (African drums) breath slowly until you find the heartbeat. After several minutes use both hands, one hand with the heartbeat, the other a beat behind. When you began to engage your thoughts, (”I’m not doing this right, I’m don’t know how to drum”) the steadiness of your rhythm vanishes. The rhythm resumes when you return to your breath and not engaging the thoughts. Now, drum what your heart desires, drum the voice of the ancestors. Let the beat come from your body, not your mind. Avoid a scattered, unconnected, rushed rhythm. Breathe evenly, drum evenly. The Native American Sundance drum and round hand drums can also be used.

I have heard villages singing and bells playing while drumming a song from my heart. Before long I am not so fixated on the happenings in the world or the calamities of my life. I am no longer angry or sad, just a rhythm playing into the atmosphere. Drumming is a very special kind of liberation…one that is ancient and comes from the earth. Every indigenous culture on every continent has a drum, has a voice that contains the sounds, the language of those who have come and gone from this earth. In this way the drum is always sacred, it is always a spiritual engagement. In some societies the drum has been reduced to entertainment, lost in performances in large music halls.

Remember the drum prayers of long ago and the healing arises.

--Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Born to Drum 2009

Drum camp 2009! For the fourth year in a row, I have attended Born to Drum and each year I have a blast. This year the camp was expanded to 4 days over the Fourth of July weekend. One of my favorite aspects of camp is the location: Walker Creek Ranch. The land, originally inhabited by the Miwok Indians, is magical. As soon as I wind up the road to the ranch I am immediately in a different state. The rolling hills, wildlife, lack of cell phone service are all qualities I truly appreciate. Arriving on the land and being greeted by all of the smiling faces of camp attendees sets the weekend off right.

This year's camp featured many of the same teachers I have come to know and love. All fierce and extremely talented Drum Maestras. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from them all. Camp is an opportunity to experience a new teacher in a discipline we already study. For example, Sistahs of the Drum plays West African drums and rhythms so, camp is an opportunity to take a class or two with djembe instructor Nuru Dafina from Boston or Dunnun instructor Mabiba Baegne from  the Congo by way of Arizona. But, camp is also an opportunity to step outside of our comfort zones and try new disciplines. Last year, I tried Taiko drumming with Janet Koike of Alameda. This year I tried Middle Eastern drumming for a belly dance class. Fun and challenging! It's great to continue to be in beginner's mind.

Another new and exciting feature of this year's camp was the open mic night. Every year there is a concert that features all of the instructors and it is off the hook. Since we had an extra night this year, we were able to have a night that featured the students. Mar and I joined up with our good, sistah friend Nahi Akinola and signed up to present a drum piece. I was nervous to perform in front of the whole camp and especially the teachers, but those two convinced me to do it. Once at camp we were reunited with other talented campers that we either know from the Bay Area or have met at previous camps. We asked a few to join us for our piece. We met for about 20 minutes on Friday afternoon before dinner and choreographed a piece that now could include, drums, dancing and percussion. Let me just say, we turned that motha out! It was beautiful, fierce, sexy, powerful and transformative. We received thunderous applause and a lot of positive feedback for the next two days. I have to say that was a highlight for me and Mar.

The other members of Sistahs of the Drum couldn't be at camp this year, but have all been before. Mar and I represented even though we missed them.


Sistahs boomin' in the streets


I had an amazing and exciting experience this weekend at SF Pride Dyke March. I marched and played tambourine with women drummers of Sistah Boom, expertly guided by master drummer, Carolyn Brandy.

We were the last group to perform on stage before marching. Picture thousands of Lesbians, Gays, Transgender, and straight people gathered at Delores Park. I looked out onto a sea of 50,000 people, dancing, gyrating, and bristling with anticipation for Dykes on Bikes to herald the beginning of the march.

After the performance we were swept along with the crowd to 18th Street where we took our places behind Dykes on Bikes. The roar of the motorcycles sent chills through my body. Then came the women, all shapes and sizes, clothed and unclothed, some bare-breasted and proud.

I didn’t think I could get any higher but as we marched to the tune, Mozambique, I heard the roar of the crowds from balconies and windows. Dancers and partying revelers joined our entourage and suddenly 25 women became 50. We fed off their energy and spirit and our music soared. We chanted for freedom, justice, peace and change.

It was a time for celebrating and being proud of our uniqueness and diversity. For one moment in time I felt total adoration and acceptance. The healing power of the drum transformed me, and all those who heard the rhythms. With open hearts we re-remembered the village where community sustains and supports.

Thank you Carolyn Brandy for your leadership and willingness to share your musical genius. Thank you to all my sisters of Sistah Boom for sharing a special moment.

In Sisterhood,

Sandy Mills

Rhythm Sistas Monthly Drum Circle

Hey everybody,

Angela here. Just wanted to share about the Rhythm Sistas drum and dance circle this past Saturday (June 20). About 40 women gathered in Mosswood park in Oakland, CA in sisterhood and harmony. We turned the place out!

Mar and Sandy are on the organizing committee. Rosetta came to jam and I came to document through photos (and tap a few beats in between shots). This circle has really taken off. It is serving women of color (and our children) by giving us an opportunity to be in community, learn, participate and/or facilitate drum techniques and rhythms, shake our groove thang or just sit in the circle and soak up the love.

Since the circle was in a public park this last Saturday, many bystanders were treated to wafting rhythmic sound waves. A few sat on the grass for at least an hour or more.

Just another way we are able to touch the community at large through the drum.

Look out for the next circle (every 3rd Saturday from 1-4).