‘Drums Not Drugs’ Rekindles King’s Dream

Written by Patricia Villers, Published by New Haven Register, January 17, 2003. Reprinted with permission.

SEYMOUR — The sound of African Djembe drums reverberated through the Inn at Villa Bianca Thursday night, during a performance by nine members of the "Drums Not Drugs" youth leadership group.

About 200 people attended a fund-raising dinner at the inn to celebrate diversity in honor of mark Martin Luther King Day. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist, was assassinated in 1968.

The anniversary of his Jan. 15 birthday will be celebrated Monday.

Drums Not Drugs is for students in fifth through eighth grade. The goal is to prevent substance abuse and promote cultural diversity, self-expression, leadership skills, self-esteem and self-worth.

The Valley Substance Abuse Action Council funded the 12-week program with a $10,000 grant from the Katharine Matthies Foundation. The after-school program was held at the Howard F. Tinney Community Center in Ansonia.

Students in the program created the drums they used to perform Thursday. Students in the program also learned leadership and team-building skills through workshops and performances.

Drummers Kenyon Beene and Sierra Roseboro led the group that included Michael Caldwell, Jamanyka DeVore, Paris DeVore, Tearron Dinkins, Adam Dixon, Louis Dixon and Jacquelin Parks.

Guest speaker Dorsey Kendrick, president of Gateway Community College in New Haven, spoke emotionally about fulfilling King’s dream that his "children would one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Kendrick said, "Dr. King did not die so that half of us would make it and half of us would perish." She grew up in Jackson, Tenn. in the ’50s and ’60s and remembers the "whites only" signs posted in public places.

"We have too many prisons and not enough schools ... too much hatred and not enough love. We must live out King’s creed that none of us is free until each of us is free," she said.

"Respect starts with self and illuminates to others," Kendrick said. "You set the tone for how people treat you ... love each other as human beings and let the past be the past. Hatred darkens life ... love lightens it."

Ansonia High School’s Gospel Choir and Ladies of Harmony ensemble, led by Maria Tangredi, performed. The Shelton High School Choir, directed by Eric Paul, sang, as did the Star of Bethlehem Church teen choir from Ansonia, directed by Alicia Freeman.

Miguel Ayala performed dinner music on drums and Juan G. Ayala on keyboard.

Proceeds from the event will go to a student from the Valley who attends Gateway Community College.

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Nov 05, 2002 Valley group gets 2 grants to curb substance abuse
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