How can I describe our trip to New York City?! We laughed. We cried. We rocked the stage. We survived…and a big ol’ THANK YOU is overdue! To: Novie. Iris. Kai. Cheyenne. Malaika. Kristen. Marcia. Renee. Linette. Novie’s mom, and all the other parents who made the trip possible. Your efforts are appreciated!!

Clink  on the link to hear the recording from the show:!.html

Lesson learned: Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow!

Keep it rhythmic!


What is the one thing YWDEP girls lack?

Stagefright. (At least, it seems that way.)


Elliette Johnson here– I’m this year’s intern and will be responsible for keeping you connected to YWDEP.

If you attended the Corporation for Enterprise Development‘s (CFED’s) 2010 Assets Learning Conference last month and stopped by YWDEP’s table at the Innovation Marketplace and Entrepreneurship Fair,  then we have probably met already.

But chances are, all you can remember from that conference were YWDEP’s outstanding performances. YWDEP was not only featured as one of the conference’s Innovative Entrepreneurs, but was also invited to be the entertainment for the evening. The girls performed twice that evening and had OVER ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE in Salons 1 & 2 at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on their feet. At the end of the final performance, Kristen “Drum Lady” Arant broke out her infamous instrument basket, full of tambourines, cow bells, and other noise-makers, and invited the audience to jam with YWDEP.

Of course, they abided!

The performance was a success and most importantly displayed to a huge audience–community practitioners, policymakers, researchers, public officials, entrepreneurs, and business people from all over the country–what YWDEP is capable of. The girls of YWDEP showed everyone that they are more than an organization–they are a MOVEMENT!

Here’s some more info on CFED and the conference:

  • CFED is “a national nonprofit based in Washington, DC dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for low-income families and communities.” ( )
  • The theme of CFED’s 2010 Assets Learning Conference was social entrepreneurship and asset building. The conference featured over 1,000 leaders from the public, corporate and nonprofit sectors who addressed this topic. ( )
  • One event at this year’s conference was The Innovation Marketplace and Entrepreneur Fair: an in-person interactive venue that showcased leaders of social innovations that expand economic opportunity for all Americans. ( )
  • YWDEP was featured in (and performed at) this Innovation Marketplace and Entrepreneur Fair.

So, how does YWDEP fit into this theme of Innovative Entrepreneurship and Assets Building?

As you may or may not know, YWDEP expands economic opportunities for our girls by offering paid mentorship positions for the young ladies who complete the annual summer enrichment program. There you have it! It is possible to get paid to do something you love.

Keep it rhythmic!

Until next time,


The Young Women’s Drumming Empowerment Project

and the Saartjie Project

are proud to present:

the Soul Beat SiStars

in their debut performance: EPIPHANY

Saturday August 28th 2010, 12pm

at the Columbia Heights Day Festival Youth Stage

(On the Harriet Tubman E.S. Soccer Field, on 11th St. between Kenyon and Irving Streets NW. Use street parking or take the Green Line to Columbia Heights)

Cost: FREE (donations gladly accepted!)

The Soul Beat SiStars are a talented group of 10 young women from DC who have completed YWDEP’s 2010 Summer Enrichment Program. The SiStars have showed up twice weekly since May 22nd to study drumming and hip hop, learn and create rhythms and songs, write poetry, and discover their inner beauty, power and potential. The SiStars are truly excited to bring you their debut performance, EPIPHANY, so please join us!

YWDEP 2010 through a grandmother’s eyes…

The first night we brought the girls to the “introductory session” for YWDEP, we expected a presentation of concept, a Q & A session, and then dismissal. Instead we heard powerful drumming that first night. And we knew some of the girls had never touched a drum before. It was thrilling. We were joyful. A promise. A deep satisfaction. That was May.

Now, in August, a beautiful group of young women are on the lawn at 16th and Newton, drumming their hearts out. Cars are pausing on the street, not moving when the light turns green. Folks waiting for the bus don’t want to get on. Residents are pouring out of their apartments to dance on the sidewalk and sit on the lawn to listen. WHY? Because there is so much power in the beat.

Witnessing the music evolve within the performers has been a satisfying experience. They have experienced other artists and new art forms during this program. It has opened their eyes and hearts. Now they are moving to the beat and feeling it deep inside. It’s wonderful. Irresistible!

– Tiambe, YWDEP Grandma

Goodbye Gabby

Well everyone, my summer has come to a close and I’m no longer in DC. I had to leave early 1) for a mini research project I’m doing at home and 2) because I have to go back to school early for job training and to help with move-in (I’m a Resident Assistant). I’m so going to miss seeing all your lovely faces! I wish I didn’t have to go…but the rest of life and the responsibilities that come with it have called me back to deal with them.

My last workshop with YWDEP was on Thursday, and the girls helped to surprise me with fruit salad!! As Miss K will tell you, I love fruit; so that was the perfect present =) Thanks so much guys! We talked about our ideas for the big picture of the show, and at the end Milan, Deja and Malaika worked on a rhythm that they created. They made me so proud! All of the girls have made me proud; I can’t believe how much they’ve grown as musicians and as a community over the past few weeks. Hopefully I’ll be back for the show in August. Until then, stay safe and keep it rhythmic. Deuces!

yay fruit salad!

l-r Malaika, me, Cheyenne

I had a conversation with Cheyfaun the other day about her experience thus far with YWDEP. Here is the gist of what she said:

“My mom set me and Tomi up with YWDEP. I’ve never drummed before this which is weird because just about everybody in my family drums. Like my grandfather, my uncles, and my sister Tomi too, she plays the snare. Drumming is awesome here. It’s not something I’m amazing at but it feels good to drum. It’s a lot of fun and it feels like you have a lot of power. Now I listen to songs and try to figure out how to play them with drums. Or if there’s a drum part then I’ll try and play along with it.

I’ve never encountered any  kind of program like YWDEP before – women getting together and drumming – and it feels good doing it. I also like that drumming is at the root of what we’re doing. We’re learning a lot of different things and we don’t always drum for the whole workshop, but we always come back to that. I think it’s important for girls to have YWDEP because there are so many emotions that come up when you’re drumming and you can deal with them right there. It’s kind of like exercising. You don’t do it every day but when you do you put it all out there and leave it.

I’m really excited about the show. We have a good group of girls. I like all of them and we have a lot of fun together. So yea, I’m really excited.”

I’m excited too! The girls have such good ideas and they are combining all their skills to create something that I know is going to be fabulous. Well said Cheyfaun!

I asked Cheyenne to write a reflection on YWDEP, and this is what she had to say:

When I came to my first drumming session, I wasn’t sure of what to expect. After clicking on the link in an e-mail my friend sent me begging me to do a drumming program with her, I found out about YWDEP. Although at first apprehensive of trying something new, I decided to join because I had nothing else to do that summer. Despite all of the chuckles and laughter my friend and I exchanged during that first session, YWDEP has no longer become something just to fill up my lazy summer days. From the beat-boxing session with Christylez to the poetry workshop with Elen Awalom, YWDEP has taught me to take advantage of new experiences instead of being afraid of them; which is a big life goal for me.  Not only have I learned to drum, I have a passion for drumming that I never would’ve had if I didn’t try something new. Author John Maxwell put it best, saying, “If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”

l to r Miss K, Cheyenne and Malaika

Cheyenne and Malaika

Rhythm Workers

Our workshop last Thursday was focused solely on drumming. We practised some rhythms that we knew already, and came up with new ones.  As with everything, practise makes perfect, and the girls are getting better the more they drum. For instance, Doné, who plays the dunduns, was freestyling a bit on one of our pieces. Alexis and Novie, a 2007 graduate, had something of a ‘drum-off’ – for lack of a better word, that had everyone laughing at their antics. This ability to experiment with tempo and sounds, or just feel free and play without self-consciousness, only comes with a certain level of comfort with the instruments. It’s good to see the girls not only hone their skills, but develop this relationship with their drum and the drums of those around them.

The group on Saturday was a lot smaller than usual, but we still had a lot of fun and accomplished a good deal. We discussed ideas for our performance and closed out with some drumming. (of course!)

More drumming is on the agenda for this Thursday and I’m looking forward to it =)

Dancing Queens

Everybody knows the song Dancing Queen by ABBA. I don’t care how old you are. Maybe you don’t know the name of the song, but once the music starts, you’ll be going ‘ohhh yeaaa!’ However, I guess there’s some small chance someone out there missed being exposed to one of the most popular, if not the signature song by this group….but now you’ve no excuse! Go listen. It’s an important piece of pop culture history; you’ll thank me one day, when you’re getting references made to this song =) Just like I’m doing now!

Ok, sorry about all that rambling haha. I really only meant to mention that with all of the dancing we’ve been doing for the past few sessions, the girls are well on their way to becoming aficionado’s of two important black cultural traditions. On Thursday we were visited by Nigerian dancer Becky Umeh who taught the girls an African dance, and on Saturday both Becky and Simone (Jacobson, from last week) returned to continue working with the girls on their respective dance styles. The artists have very different styles, but something I think the girls recognised from both workshops is that both types of dance require a lot of energy and isolating body movements.

In addition to all that we’ve learned about dance, we’ve become even more focused on collaborating to create the show that we will be putting on at the end of August. Actually, I’m really proud of all the productivity that has happened in YWDEP over the last two workshops. After a few focused discussions, we’ve also established the strengths and interests of the girls for the performance and who among the group will be leading the direction show.

Below you’ll find pictures from our workshop with Becky. Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Renée!

This post is dedicated to the lovely Renée, who is YWDEP’s chief volunteer and official keeper of the dunduns. Today is her birthday, and trust me, you would never guess how old she is. We hang out together quite a bit, which is helping me learn the secrets to her youthfulness. It’s nothing that radical really, I’m sure she wouldn’t be upset if I told you that they include healthy, organic food and body products and exercise. Hopefully, by following in her footsteps I will be able to look as youthful as she does when I get older =)

Renée is the brains behind our food operations each week, and although we are so grateful to the Georgetown Whole Foods for their generosity, it wouldn’t mean that much if we didn’t have her to go and pick up the food, bring it to our workshops and keep an inventory of what is/isn’t needed. And what a selection! She’s helped me discover all these delicious healthy snacks, my especial favourite being almond butter. I mentioned earlier that Renée safeguards our dunduns, but she does more than just carry them hither and thither (hahaha) she is a dundun diva herself! I know I can count on her to hold down the bass section; she’s always happy to make sure we ladies stay on track. Add to all of this a sweet, gentle and patient spirit, and a genuine smile hello whenever she sees you, and you can understand why we love having Renée around.

Happy Birthday to you,

Happy Birthday to you,

Happy Birthday dear Renée,

Happy Birthday to you!!

We love you chica! And hope that you live to see many more.

Rhythm is a Dancer

I don’t know how many of you are aware of the song Rhythm is a Dancer by the group Snap!, but I found out this Saturday how true those words are. We drummed and danced and looking back at the relationship between these two activities I feel like we embodied that phrase. We became rhythm as we practised our drumming and then, not having shaken the rhythm off of/out of us, we moved on to dance. Ok, so maybe you’re not following me and think I’m stretching…I get that, perhaps it only makes sense in my head. But you should check out the song anyway, it’s catchy =)

So as I mentioned, for the first part of our workshop we played the drums. Some girls were on the djembes, and although only one of our dunun divas was there (Milan) she definitely held it down for us. We practised our technique and one of the rhythms in our repertoire a bit, and closed out with a jam session. We were all in good moods when our guest artist, Simone Jacobson came in to teach us some hip hop dance. She was great – encouraging, quick to review any steps and very clear about the nature of hip hop movements i.e crisp and controlled. A few of the girls in particular were really terrific, which speaks to the fact that you never know the hidden talents people possess. We have to have some dancing in our show so you can all see what I’m talking about.

After our warm-up, Simone taught us moves to a song by Mos Def which has been in my head ever since that day! I didn’t know it before then but now I really like it. Just typing this I’m going “simmer down simmer down simmer down now” hahaha. Anyway, the name of the song is Quiet Dog, and Simone charged us to find out who it is that is speaking in the intro. See if you can figure it out, as a hint Miss K loves the person. Simone will be back this Saturday, so everyone will get a chance to meet her, which is great because she is pretty cool energy =)

Oh yea, Miss K is coming back from China tomorrow, which means that Thursday is going to be awesome! Ciao for now.

P.S. If you think you know who the person is, comment on this post or send me an email.

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