when drums speak — african griot in brooklyn

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Left to right: Richard E. “Musa” Mosley, Michael “Breeze” Bonham, William”Billie” Miles, Phil Potts, Bilal “X” Malik Muhammad, Howard Wright (not pictured - David Miller, moderator.)

Well known historians and filmmakers David R. Miller and wife Karen Miller, recently hosted a  day with Richard ”Musu” Mosley, a world-famous African Griot and drum maker who calls his home Chicago.

The event was held on April 8th at the Country Inn in Brooklyn. After Musu’s mesmerizing tales of the role of the drum in ancient Africa, he discussed his life-long interaction of integrating the power of the drum with North American culture via Africa.

Musu explained that while he was visiting in Nigeria, he was playing a solo.  The Nigerian people from that village stopped him.  To his amazement, he said, “they asked me how do you know our ancient tongue?”  After inquiring as to what they were talking about, I asked them “what are you talking about?” It was explained to Musu that it said that the king had just died.  It was a very spiritual moment.

Musu has made drums for “Sting,” Hugh Masekela’s and Jose Feliciano’s drummers, among others.  He described one of the drums he made from a hollowed out log and said, “The sound reverberates for miles.” His career was launched after training with Atukea, who taught Musu how to make drums.  He played with Sundrumer of Chicago’s south side.

When the afternoon’s moderator, David Miller, noticed there were several Brooklyn activists in the audience, he decided to empanel the group which ended in a robust discussion of the future, present and past of Brooklyn’s politics.

One of the panelist, Phil Potts, is a potential candidate for NY City Council from the 35 District.  He spoke on immigration matters and his love for the country he adopted. He’s originally from Panama.

Michael “Breeze” Bonham-King is a youth organizer in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

William “Billie” Miles spoke about the treatment many youthful offenders are subjected to in the prison system – solitary confinement for extremely minor infractions, such as looking directly at an officer.  Time did not allow him to elaborate on what if anything is being done to lessen or prevent this type of treatment.

Bilal “X” Malik Muhammad is the proud owner of a Brownsville store, “Sock’s City,” whose slogan is “Shop for Less.”

Another Chi town resident, Howard Wright, is the founder of Sankofa Restoration Project, a group organized to unite people of the African Diaspora through ancestry association.

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