Baba Jubal Harris discusses Willie Ray 'Karimi' Mackey, ca. 2016

Baba Jubal Harris
Source: Ohio Alliance for Arts Education

Baba Jubal Harris, founder of the Ohio Heart Beat Drum Circle, master teaching artist with the Ohio Arts Council’s Arts Learning program, and 2015 recipient of the Ohio Heritage Fellowship.

In this raw interview clip from “Traditions: Ohio Heritage Fellows," builder of African drums and master drummer Baba Jubal Harris discusses how he met his teacher and mentor, the renowned NASA astrophysicist and African dancer Dr. Willie Ray 'Karimi' Mackey (Osagyefo Karimi Salmone Faye) PhD '81. Dr. Mackey was the second African American to earn a PhD in Astrophysics (1981) from MIT. Called the "dancing physicist" by friends, Dr. Mackey also completed a seven-year apprenticeship under in African dance and drum under Raymond Sylla, an African cultural icon from Senegal. 

It was Dr. Mackey who taught Harris the essentials of harnessing solar energy. They met in 1985-86 at Wilberforce University in Ohio, where Dr. Mackey was Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Physics, and Harris played music for the college's dance classes. Harris's would create the "Solar Drum Project," which uses solar panels and marine batteries to power everything required for the drum-making process. “I combine art, science and music, with a focus on the energy of the sun,” says Harris, who teaches students from elementary to college levels how solar panels work, as well as the art of drumming and drum-making. “The next step is we record the music we play on a recording machine that is powered by solar energy (or) photovoltaic energy.”

Transcript Excerpt

[Dr. Karimi Mackey] invited me to come to be a visiting artist in one of his residencies, and that is when I got introduced to the Ohio Arts Council and their artists-in-education program. So, I was like, wow, this is really great, ‘cause this is something that, you know, I want to do. Like, bring African music dance and culture into the schools and tie it into the academics, tie it into science, math, social studies, history...and that’s what we did.

Baba Jubal Harris, “Traditions: Ohio Heritage Fellows," Episode 202, ThinkTV (Dayton, Ohio), American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC.
[Edited interview airdate on PBS: 18 September 2016]

Timeline: 2010s
School: School of Science
Department: Physics
Career: Arts & HumanitiesCommunityEducationGovernment & LawScienceTechnologyTransportation
Object: Video
Collection: Africa(n), Integration and Differentiation 1969-1994, Mentorship, Music, NASA, Rising Voices 1995-Present