Edward “Nardi” White, Albert Shumake, Zambia Nkrumah
In the midst of being submerged in reminders of all the atrocities and heartaches blacks have gone through for so many years, River City Drumbeat brings hope and a little comfort in seeing some of the heroes of that community trying to make things better by instilling fine values of caring, reverence, purpose, and accomplishment in young people who might be vulnerable because of their circumstances.
The documentary highlights the inimitable Edward “Nardie” White who recognized early on that there was too much emphasis on sports for young blacks, that some of them did not fit the mold and actually had artistic inclinations. Noting that one of the first sounds an infant in the womb hears is the heartbeat of his mother, directors Anne Flatte and Marion Johnson introduce us to the work of White who, with his deceased wife Zambia Nkrumah, founded the drum corps in Louisville, Kentucky, over 30 years ago. They spent their lives guiding young people on a course that would be advantageous to them in the long run. The kids are given drum lessons that may start in early childhood and continue until they graduate high school.
Always forward thinking, White began to train his successor some years before he planned to retire. An original member of the corps, Albert Shumake, who is now a young father, has picked up White’s mantle with the same degree of commitment. In watching them work with the drummers and hearing what the kids say about them, it becomes clear how kind they are and how the whole experience is therapeutic for the kids and their families. Albert himself says that it saved him from the fate of many of his classmates who are now in prison or even dead.
The film has footage of a few performance pieces, but mostly we get to observe the corps in operation and hear the touching stories of individuals. The primary message is loud and clear; that when a community moves in sync to better the lives of children at risk, it’s a success.
An uplifting account of a novel approach in improving the chances for a better life for thousands of children.