Women drumming in San Francisco

 Residents of St Anthony's Marian Residence for Women, a homeless shelter in San Francisco, celebrated International Women's Day last week, with a drumming workshop. The event, offered by master drummer Afia Walking Tree, was greatly appreciated by the residents, many of whom are recovering from histories of domestic abuse - the theme of this year's International Women's Day. "Many people don't realize the correlation between domestic violence and homelessness for women," said Martha Sainz, shelter manager. "Offering tools to address the fear and violence is critical for many women in addressing their homelessness." she added. Afia Walking Tree brought African drums and percussion instruments for everyone, and started the programme with affirmations of "I am alive. I am beautiful. I can do anything, if I work and put my heart into it". Residents beamed as they drummed together, with genuine joy and appreciation for themselves, each other, and the drums. At the end of the workshop, the group resonated with joy and a sense of self worth, and offered profuse thank yous to Afia Walking Tree and the St Anthony staff. Afia said: "Breaking the patterns of violence goes beyond what many know from their personal experience. Creating and controlling a drum rhythm can be a powerful method of realizing and developing personal authority." St Anthony's provides more than 50 homeless and/or mentally ill women shelter and long term transitional residential services, including on-site case management and 3 meals a day, to support their stability and empowerment. Residents in the shelter can re-claim their bed daily, so they can begin to develop the sense of security needed to regain self sustainability. If accepted into the Transitional Program at the Marian Residence for Women, residents are required to have a personal goal plan that leads to independent living. Other requirements include working with a case manager, participation in money management, and payment of a small program fee (pro-rated based on income) if the resident has income. Afia Walking Tree was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica and has worked with master drummers from the Americas to Africa. She is the founder of Spirit Drumz, which provides drumming empowerment intensives and ongoing classes for women, youth, and educators. She is a Vassar and Bank Street graduate who has shared the artist and activist stage with Alice Walker, Abdoulaye Diakite, Olympia Dukakis, Mabiba Baegne, and Marisa Tomei, among others. St Anthony Foundation was established in 1950. It continues to offer programs to improve the lives of poor and homeless San Franciscans. St Anthony's does not accept federal, state, or local government money, and is entirely funded by private donations. For more information see: www.stanthonysf.org/services/services-marian.html

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