Ronny sat behind my desk for months with a red drum between his legs. A bungee cord wrapped around the drum and placed behind his back to keep it in place. In the morning before a seminar, during lunch after he’d eaten, at the end of the day waiting for his ride, he’d sit there. bum, bum, bee, bum. Sitting behind my chair, I’d hear the thumping. Responding to emails, working on credit card receipts, in the background of the mundane office tasks there would be the constant, bum, bum, bee, bum of Ronny and the red drum.
I’d answer the phone, be in the middle of a conversation and hear that persistent bum, bum, bee, bum. Ronny, drumming. At one point, I begged him to stop practicing behind me. “Ronny, please…can you do that anywhere else?” He smiled and in his voice, “Man, I gotta practice.” He allowed me to move the drum to the Commons one day and he practiced with a small audience at lunch. The next day the drum was behind my desk again. Ronny came in in the morning, sat down, affixed the bungee cord around himself and the drum and bum, bum, bee, bum, bum, bum, bee, bum, bum, bum, bee, bum, bum, bum, bee, bum, bum, bum, bee, bum, bum, bum, bee, bum.
It became a funny thing, and inside joke that constant drumming. Ronny would laugh when he came back to practice and when Kathy or I responded to a particularly annoying email or got off phone call that was exceptionally frustrating, we’d walk past and bang on the drum ourselves. Kathy would walk past and bum bum bum, bang on it. I’d wrap up credit card receipts which always take longer than I hope and bum, bum, bum on the drum. Ronny continued to practice. In addition to the drumming, there was also a chant. Hey, yay, yay, yay, yay.
“Ronny, please. Can you sing something else?” And he’d respond, “I have to practice….Heyyy, yay, yay, yay, yay, hey, yay, yay, yay, yay, hey, yay, yay, yay, yay.”
On Saturday, after months of hearing the repetitive drumming, the repeated bum, bum, bee, bum and Ronny’s deep voice singing hey, yay, yay, yay, yay on constant replay, Be Hopeful premiered at the Cincinnati Art Museum. I’d been in the office late a week or so before the premiere and got to glimpse a rehearsal in action. It looked as all rehearsals do a week or two before a performance: people holding scripts, asking questions, a director pointing to a place where a performer ought to be standing, but it was full of energy, people smiling, dancing, drumming, laughing, singing.
Katie Bachmeyer wrote an excellent article for Be Hopeful on Cincinnati.com. It read, “Movement, beats, and powerful vocals collide next weekend during the live performance of ‘Be Hopeful.’ Audiences can expect a lively, soul-quenching hour of African drumming, Colombian dancing, and spoken word from an eclectic group of artists who want to share their story of hope and freedom… “It’s a story about who we really are,” said Ronny Edwards, Mt. Healthy resident who is co-creator of the event. “Not just who you see when you pass each other by on the street, but who we are as people.”… For the project, he teamed up with the head of The Image Afro-beat band, Baoku Moses. Together the two gathered a group of over 20 professional musicians, dancers, and spoken word performers to bring life to Moses’ choreography and words. “My people say that when we lose hope, we lose life. Hope represents life itself,” said Moses, Nigerian-born writer and director of Be Hopeful. “What has come out of this project is brilliant, with so many artists coming together from different backgrounds, it has ended up being magical.” Moses said the performance is for all people, genders, ages, and creeds, and especially those who have lost hope and are searching for something to believe. They chose the first showing to be held at the Cincinnati Art Museum on a day of free admission, as a way to draw families and a diverse, wider audience. “We always look for ways to represent all segments of our community,” said Emily Holtrip, director of learning and interpretation at the Cincinnati Art Museum. “Be Hopeful is right along with our mission to become even more inclusive and welcoming.” Along with Moses and Edwards, the cast includes professional dancers from Pris and Columbia Viva, along with artists from the socially conscious rap group T.R.U. “
Katie told people to “expect a lively, soul-quenching hour.” I had no idea how right Katie was. You can watch a sample of the performance here.
Tim’s post of 51 People is the bleak reality of many peoples lives. Sitting as an audience member on Saturday, I cried watching Ronny, the dancers, listening to Baoku sing, hearing the spoken word poetry, seeing Jai All Day be a presence as the emcee for the event. Brandon, who had help Ronny with his capstone the past year, performed about the strength of people being together. He held up a single sheet of paper and ripped it, easily down the middle, and talked about how by ourselves we are weak, easily broken, discarded. He then held up a whole notebook, trying to rip it in half, it was evident. If the paper equals people, together we are stronger. And there is hopefulness in more pages coming together to tell new stories.
Ronny’s voice by himself, the hey, yay, yay, yay, yay wasn’t bad. But his singlular voice didn’t carry the message that Saturday’s performance did with many voices harmonizing, joining in, singing out, being hopeful. The one beating drum bum, bum, bee, bum didn’t have the strength of three. One dancer on stage doesn’t have the power of 10.
There is hopefulness in bringing people together.
If you missed last Saturday’s performance, there is another happening this Saturday, June 16th at 7:30PM at New Thought Unity Center. Suggested donation is $10.
If you were struck by Tim’s post and aren’t sure what to do about it, attend this performance for starters and see what it means when people come together and begin to recognized everyone as gifted, talented, and a part of a community of hopefulness.