Local kids get a lesson in Ubuntu

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African-born Babarinde Williams, of Drums et al, taught kids at King George Public School the unifying effect of drumming in rhythm with each other at a full-day workshop Tuesday to kick off Black History month in the school.
African-born Babarinde Williams, of Drums et al, taught kids at King George Public School the unifying effect of drumming in rhythm with each other at a full-day workshop Tuesday to kick off Black History month in the school.

Using African drum rhythms, singing and dance, Babarinde Williams introduced the students at King George Public School in Chatham to a different approach to teamwork and a sense of community.

A full-day workshop featuring Williams’ drums, music and story-telling kicked off Black History month at King George, according to music teacher Cristina Perini. Students from grades 1 to 7 were encouraged to drum, sing and make noise in different rhythms with traditional African drums and percussion tools.

“He uses music, dance and story-telling and it brings everyone together, with the message we are one regardless of race or colour,” Perini said. “The method is very organized and focused.”

The Nigerian-born musician and motivational speaker, based in Durham Region, travels all over the world performing and facilitating seminars and workshops for schools, at-risk youths and community groups and leaders.

One of the messages he brought to King George this week was the African philosophy of Ubuntu.

“Ubuntu means humanity – being concerned about our neighbour,” Williams told the students. “We can’t be human on our own; we need other people to make us human because we are all connected.”

He told a story about African village children to narrate his point. One child was asked why, when playing a game where the goal was to collect as much candy as possible, he didn’t collect it all because he was the quickest. The child’s answer was, “How can I be happy when the others are sad?”

“Percussion and rhythm – we use music as a metaphor for unity. No matter where you come from, only one thing makes us one – our humanity,” the drummer said. “In South Africa, they greet each other with the phrase ‘sawa bona,’ which means ‘I see you,’ and the response is ‘sikohna,’ meaning ‘I am here.’”

That greeting, Williams said, is a sign of respect for a fellow human being and acknowledges that you see the humanity in them.

The drummer linked the idea of respect for each other to the issue of bullying – that when hurting others you are also hurting yourself, as we are all linked. Statistics Williams used showed that when another student intervenes, bullying stops within 10 seconds, and when a bully has no peer support, he or she stops the behaviour.

Williams explained that public figures such as Doc Rivers, the former coach of the Boston Celtics, used the Ubuntu philosophy when challenging his players to work as a team. The result was a championship ring in 2008.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Williams said, also uses the example of living a life of Ubuntu when speaking about world peace and recognizing the humanity in everyone around us.

“Live a life of Ubuntu. Be kind, share, do something every day to make someone smile.”

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