“Black Lives Matter. Black Arts Matter.” These powerful words come from a speaker addressing the children of the River City Drum Corps.The quote is pivotal to the theme of River City Drumbeat and is crucial to the children and the audience watching the film. River City Drumbeat follows the transition of Ed “Nardie” White as he passes the mantle of leadership of the RCDC to his protege, Albert Shumake. The film also follows their journey in helping the children and the RCDC develop.
River City Drumbeat is above all else a testament to Black Excellence. In the first few seconds of the film a quote is presented that reads “We desire to bequeath two things to our children; the first one is roots, the other is wings.” Featuring the growth of the children who participate in the program and the community that has a hand in raising them, this documentary is equal parts powerful and inspirational. Whether it be hearing how the RCDC program has helped children transition to adulthood or how it’s kept them away from the violence and drugs that are prominent in their neighborhoods, the positive results within the community are undeniable.
Throughout River City Drumbeat, the passing of the torch from White to Shumake introduces different aspects to Black and African American culture through music and art to the audience. Looking into the two men’s lives, seeing the importance the arts have on them — and why they are incredible leaders despite their circumstances — puts an emphasis on the meaning of passion to the audience. Directors Marlon Johnson and Anne Flatté’s depiction of a positive and excelling part of the Black community is a true privilege to watch.