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Spelman Celebrates Omelika Kuumba‘s 25 Years of Artistic Genius

May 2023

Spelman College Celebrates Omelika Kuumba

Dancing to the Beat of Her Own Drum With Joy and Justice

The Spelman community and dance and cultural enthusiasts throughout the city paid homage and celebrated Omelika Kuumba’s 25 years of service to the College on Wednesday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Sisters Chapel.

Kuumba, or Sister Omelika as she is affectionately called, is a native of Brooklyn, New York and majored in philosophy at Spelman. A drummer, dancer, choreographer, musical arranger, and cultural arts educator, she co-founded GIWAYEN MATA, an award-winning dance, percussion and vocal ensemble. Kuumba, we’ll respected and admired nationally and internationally, studied under the direction of master dancers and percussionists in the U.S. and in Senegal, West Africa. Other highlights of her career include performing during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, teaching and choreographing at Trollwood Performing Arts School in North Dakota, and teaching percussion and choreographing in Stuttgart, Germany, Hastings, England and Bermuda.

Professor Kuumba is an instructor, workshop leader and lecturer of percussion and dance at various schools and programs to expand awareness and appreciation of African dance and music. She is an instructor of African Dance Forms in the Department of Dance Performance and Choreography at Spelman, directs Ashietu, the Sisters Chapel African Dance and Drum Ministry at Spelman, and taught West African dance for Atlanta Ballet’s AileyCamp. She has been a consultant for the Atlanta Public Schools Gifted and Talented Program and the National Black Arts Festival.

Most recently, Kuumba produced and composed an album titled, “Soaring High” and was featured in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution article, “Soaring High: African rhythm meets contemporary sound.” She celebrated the debut of the album and the event was chronicled in Hub Pages.

blue-quote-left Sister Omelika's extensive knowledge of rhythm and dance is matched by her tremendous spirit and her ability to connect with students. Over these past 25 years, the impact that she has made on Spelman, the AUC, and the broader Atlanta community isblue-quote-right immeasurable. I am in awe of the legacy she has built and grateful to call her a colleague, mentor and friend.

—  Julie B. Johnson, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Dance Performance assistant professor.

A Legacy of Educating Minds and Changing Lives

In a 2019 ArtsATL article, “Giwayen Mata founder Omelika Kuumba reflects on 25 years of drum and dance,” journalist Cynthia Bond Perry wrote:

Omelika Kuumba grew up in Brooklyn during the 1960s and ’70s, her lineage among scholars and leaders in education. She is quick to honor her forebears. Her mother is an educator. Her grandfather earned a doctorate from Yale University and went on to found the philosophy department at Morgan State University before serving as president of Storer College in West Virginia. Kuumba’s great-grandfather graduated from Howard University and was an attorney during the pre-Civil Rights era. Kuumba is also proud of her Cherokee ancestry.”

Read More About Omelika Kuumba Here

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