Omelika Kuumba - Spelman College's Drum Major
Posted By: Robert Walker on January 10, 2018 |
Omelika Kuumba is Spelman College's Instructor of African Dance Forms in the Department of Dance Performance & Choreography that has been a figurative "Drum Major" for the many students who are touched by her grace, focus and ability to unlock that God-given talent inside each one to achieve a quality of life beyond dance.
It is evident when you attend any of Spelman's dance programs or holiday performances, that Sister Omelika, as she is affectionately referred to by colleagues and students, that her impact on how these young people focus in performance has uplifted them on a spiritual level of awareness and purpose.
The students beam while on stage doing intricate rhythmic dance routines to the African drum beats provided by Omelika along with fellow drummers and family.
And when you see the students' interactions with Sister Omelika, you feel the enormous respect and love they have for their Drum Major.
One colleague recently wrote on Omelika's social media page:
"Sister Omelika, You have brought so much joy and inspiration to so many thru song, dance & rhythm. May it be returned to you without measure in 2018 & beyond! Love, Light, Peace, Blessings & Prosperity."
Like many of the great performers of our times, or athletes, or even a great boss in the workplace, having the technical skills to perform, or teach and supervise, is 15% of what is needed, but 85% for a successful work place, no matter what the venue is - on stage, on the field or court, or in the office - is how a teacher, a boss, or a leader interacts with those they are leading.
Many of Omelika's former students that I spoke with remembers how she made them feel that allowed them to go deeper within to find purpose.
Basketball legend, Michael Jordan, is the iconic figure as professional basketball's standard for achievement. This is not just because he won six NBA Titles, or was the premiere player of his time, maybe of all times in pro basketball, but because his ability to make everyone around him dig deeper within themselves and elevate their game is what those who played with him, or against him, talk about the most.
In the dance world, I think of Sister Omelika as channeling the likes of such greats as, Katherine Dunham, Carmen de Lavallade, Alvin Alley, and Judith Jamison, all of whom influenced generations of dancers to become successful people in life beyond their performance lives.
Sister Omelika was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and is a SpelHouse daughter of Osban W. Bynum (Morehouse College) and Phyllis M. Bynum (Spelman College). Omelika Kuumba is an alumna of Spelman College and proud mother of Zanaida Wakatama and Akumba Ashanti. Omelika Kuumba is a founding member and artistic director of Giwayen Mata where she is a writer, drummer, musical arranger, vocalist, choreographer, and dancer. She is a cultural arts educator, instructor of African Dance Forms in the Department of Drance Performance and Choreography at Spelman College, and former instructor of African Dance Forms in the Department of Dance at Emory University.
She and her daughter, Zanaida Wakatama, also taught African Dance at Clark Atlanta University. Sis. Omelika is the Founder and CEO of Sistah With A Nia, LLC.
She has studied under the direction of masters of African dance and percussion in this country including Marie Basse, Assane Konte, Youssouf Koumbassa, Mahiri Keita, and Dr. Zak Diouf. During her first journey to Africa, Omelika studied drumming under master drummer, Taffa N’Daiye Rose and African dancing under master dancers including members of Ibrahima Cisse’s African Dance Company in Senegal.
As a percussionist, dancer, choreographer, musical arranger and an educator, Omelika has traveled to Stuttgart, Germany, Hastings, England and Bermuda. Omelika was Assistant Director of Barefoot Ballet Children’s Dance Ensemble and is founder and director of the Kuumba Krew, a children’s performing ensemble. She directs Ashietu, the Sisters Chapel African Dance and Drum Ministry at Spelman College. Omelika is an instructor and workshop leader and lecturer of music and dance at various schools and programs to expand awareness and appreciation of African dance and music. She has been a consultant for the Atlanta Public Schools Gifted and Talented Program and the National Black Arts Festival. She also teaches West African dance for Atlanta Ballet's AileyCamp. Omelika has played with vocalists including Dionne Farris, Goapele, Laurnea, Wunmi, Doria Roberts, Donnie, Rahbi, Tasha LaRae and Saidah Nairobi. Her commercial and television credits include being a featured guest on several cable television and internet programs like Real Housewives of Atlanta with Giwayen Mata and Step Up. Additionally, she was a percussionist for an American Cancer Society anti- smoking campaign with Mike E.
Omelika was a first round winner with Giwayen Mata in the third season of NBC Television’s America’s Got Talent. Together she and the ensemble were featured on the NBC Television show, 1st Look. She also performed as the percussionist in the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered **** When the Rainbow is Enuf under the direction of Ms. Jasmine Guy and Black Nativity, directed by Robert Connor. She was thrilled to play the role in the Spelman College Department of Drama and Dance's production of Lysistrata, directed by Dr. Eddie Bradley.
In addition to other awards that she has received with Giwayen Mata, Omelika is the recipient of awards from Women of Multi-Ethnicity and Nationality and USA Magazine as well as the Ruby Gem Drama and Dance student departmental award at Spelman College. She is also listed in Who’s Who in Black Atlanta. She received the Kuumba Award from East Point/College Park Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and a Community Service Award from the Atlanta Alumnae Association of Spelman College. Omelika is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. East Point/College Park Chapter, the Spelman College Alumnae Association, and Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society at Spelman College.
I caught up recently with Omelika Kuumba to discuss her life and career, and what the future holds.
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