Earlier this month, I was honored to sit on the panel discussion for the movie Walk All Night: A Drum Beat Journey at the African Diaspora International Film Festival, which took place at Teachers College, Columbia University.  This was an amazing event because it highlighted an amazing project that I’ve been associated with for the last five years! If you haven’t seen it in your local city, the film tells the story of an idealistic social worker who initiates an ambitious project to take a group of street musicians to West Africa. Fascinated by the sounds of bucket drummers she meets on Chicago’s south side, Elilta Tewelde aspires to connect the young men to their African heritage through music. A native of Africa herself, she crowd-funds a trip to Senegal where the teens will participate in traditional drumming workshops under a master percussionist and his family. But the cultural divide proves wide and problems surface along the way challenging the project leaders and bucket drummers to unexpected limits and discoveries about themselves.

My role in the film was a mentor and big brother to these young men.  I pulled on every bit of my Rites of Passage training when working with these young men in an attempt to share with them some information that would benefit them once they returned home to Chicago. It was an amazing journey, which is documented in an amazing fashion in the documentary.