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Recommendation Letters, Endorsements, and References for Afia Walking Tree

Recommendations Letters

To the Selection Committee:

Afia Walking Tree is a brilliant, dynamic life force whose passion and dedication is driven with a depth of knowledge and exploration of our roots and culture. Her leadership is distinct from many because she uses the voice of the African drums to create a world where we are all free to express our most authentic selves. I am honored to endorse Afia Walking Tree¹s social change vision and her activism as a community leader.

Continuing the legacies of our African foremothers and freedom fighters, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, to name a few, Afia created the Underground Drum Sanctuary in Oakland, California. In my first visit to the Underground Drum Sanctuary, I had a clear feeling that I was rediscovering something vital that had been hidden in plain sight.

After experiencing the power of Afia as teacher, drummer, performer, and healer, I can now say emphatically that I love the drum and drumming! I love the Underground Drum Sanctuary that she has created for us. It has the gift of being itself ­ authentic, real, and receives us where we are. It is a space of inclusiveness, where differences intermingle through intergenerational and cross-cultural discussions, drumming, and rituals that penetrate the core of our hearts.

As a woman of African descent carrying the African drum as a tool for liberation, Afia¹s chosen path of leadership is uncommon, complex, and controversial. Afia is at the forefront as a visionary and activist who will lead us in the movement of freeing peoples minds and hearts from the shackles of enslavement and oppression using the drum vibrations as a healing, activating, and liberating force. She brings strong medicines of release, inspiration and creativity to those of us who long to rest in the nurturance of rhythm, song, drum, and movement that is easeful, stress free, fun, and loving.

I cherish Afia Walking Tree, who has been my teacher of the drum, for her beautiful presence, amazing essence, and courage. I strongly recommend agencies to fund the programs and initiatives that Afia Walking Tree and her organization, Spirit Drumz provides‹as this work is integral in creating the justice we seek in this world for all.


Alice Walker
Author & Activist
Berkeley, CA


To The Selection Committee:

As a life path coach and advocate to many luminaries and leaders, I have been particularly touched by Afia Walking Tree¹s teachings and passion ­ the care, discretion, and dynamics she uses in connecting individuals with their inner-self through the drum is a transformative method of liberation. I am honored to further support the development of her work in the world.

Afia is a masterful facilitator and teacher and she builds bridges across many communities to create sustaining change at many levels by awakening everyone she touches and by liberating masses in the briefest of moments. The following journey will give you a window into the power of Afia¹s amazing gift.

With drum strapped to her body, Afia walks out onto the stage, her hands moving faster than I can calculate, creating syncopated beats and rhythms that pulsates within places unknown to me before that moment. The earth is vibrating underneath us as she moves to the edge of the stage and closer to the audience of over 2,000 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation. Screams, stomps and applause almost drown out her drumming. She quickly engages us with her famous affirming song of ³I am Alive, I am Beautiful, I Can Do Anything I Put My Love and Heart Into² while she rhythmically massages this DNA memory of primal vibrations into every bone in our bodies through her drum playing. Everyone in the audience rises with her graceful, confident hand gesture and her call is quickly responded to. Everyone in the room is awakening, becoming more connected to living. Watching Afia in action is powerfully inspirational. One is immediately led to personally experience a sense of freedom, love and joy from her essence, her voice, her affirmative songs, and her fierce passionate drumming.

Afia Walking Tree¹s vision is to have African drums fully integrated in our school systems, the white house, the senate, hospitals, recovery programs, and other prevention and wellness programs and has been working towards that goal since she began drumming in 1990. Over the past 10 years, the California Bay Area has been awakened by Afia¹s determined efforts to bring the voice of the drum to thousands of venues and hundreds of thousands of women and youth.

Afia¹s clairvoyance of redefining our priorities to wellness, freedom, inspiration, and joy, deserves full recognition as a phenomenal evolution. Her teachings and work provides an essential point of transforming our cultural awareness, developing affirmative language, and to creating stronger allies amongst multiple communities utilizing the African drum.

Afia Walking Tree deserves all the space, time, and fiscal sponsorship to bring this work to a larger audience and to take a break from the frontlines. It is in this time of respite, that Afia Walking Tree will come to develop further clarity regarding the direction of her path, especially after she returns from her intensive studies in Africa.


Jules Stept
Dianic Wiccan High Priestess & Life Coach for Luminaries
(415) 695 9066


To Whom This May Concern:

I have come to know Afia Walking Tree by way of, well, I¹m a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area covering social and political issues, how could I not come to know Afia Walking Tree?

Afia Walking Tree, born in Jamaica and now residing in Oakland, California, is a master musician, teacher of African drumming, and an activist whose political pursuits are best understood by referring to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Allow me to explain.

Afia Walking Tree has dedicated her life and work to the spiritual liberation of African Americans and other oppressed groups in a society intensely divided by ethnicity, color and class. As the founder of The Underground Drum Sanctuary in Oakland‹a symbolic new station on the pre-Civil War underground railroad‹Walking Tree is continuing the efforts begun by Harriet Tubman and tens of thousands of African-American slaves, whites, Native Americans and others who joined in liberating Africans from slavery. The Underground Railroad marked a momentous time in our history‹a time of unity and cooperation between races that achieved the crucial goal of freeing a multitude of people from physical slavery, but fell short of the goal of spiritual and emotional liberation and equality. And so the fundamental lesson of the Underground Railroad‹the formation of effective alliances toward a common goal‹is as critical today, if not more so, than in the times of slavery.

There is a vital difference between Afia Walking Tree¹s Underground Drum Sanctuary in Oakland and all other stations of the earlier historic Underground Railroad: Where there was silence, stealth and secrecy there is now SOUND. Nowhere does the voice of the African drums that were silenced by slavery boom louder than in Oakland¹s Underground Drum Sanctuary. The neighborhood‹a mixed barrio of Latinos, Asians, African Americans, Native Americans and whites‹vibrates in unity to the beat of the Underground¹s drums. At this modern-day station of the Underground Railroad, as in earlier stations, people of all ethnic backgrounds come together, this time in the fused rhythms of the stories of the drums. And under Afia Walking Tree¹s guidance, the sounds and stories of the continued need for liberation emanate forth‹to schools, to civic organizations, to businesses, to parades and community events. But mostly, Afia Walking Tree spreads her message individual by individual: There is much work still to be done before people of all races and backgrounds achieve, together, social justice and freedom.

As an author, journalist and public radio producer, I have been reporting on Afia Walking Tree¹s work. Observing her is like watching the ocean at the edge of a continent, where wave after wave of enormous energy lands and molds the shore, and from where sea breezes travel inland to enrich the air we all breathe. As such, I highly recommend Afia Walking Tree and her organization, Spirit Drumz, to be funded to continue their most crucial work. I do this with some selfishness, since providing Afia Walking Tree and Spirit Drumz with these funds will benefit us all.

Lonny Shavelson
Berkeley, CA
Phone/fax: (510) 849 9382


Afia Walking Tree's music and presence bring people together, fostering heart-soul connections and cultivating spiritual wellness, wholeness and healing. Audiences are animated, inspired and moved by the expansive and mind-altering experience of her drumming heart-beat.

Christian de la Huerta
Author, Coming Out Spiritually
(415) 460-1177


Please feel free to contact individuals below for further recommendations of Walking Tree's activism and leadership

Peggy Moore
Oakland Public Official/ Founder/ Photographer
Sistahs Steppin in Pride: East Bay Dyke March and Festival

Lea E. Arellano
Cultural and Organizational Consultant/Coach/Trainer
Human Solutions Consulting and Training
Home Office (510) 261 5973
Cell Phone (510) 410 6353

Virginia Reynolds
Consultant, Proprietor, and Board President
Health Adventures, Visioning and Education Network
(707) 485 0902

Lynn Scott
Oakland Unified School District Teacher and Writer
(510) 872 0692

Contact Afia Walking Tree at 510-534-9603 walkingtree@spiritdrumz.org

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