This past weekend Halisi Africa Cafe and Boutique, located in Railroad Square Art District, celebrated the grand reopening of the drum circle. As it was once a place of music, celebration, and communion, the drum circle faced a decline in attendance after the COVID-19 restrictions took place in Tallahassee.
Co-owner of Halisi Africa Cafe and Boutique, Bryant Shaw hosted the event after contacting the owners of the Railroad Square Art District and being placed as a new manager for the lot.
“It’s a free space right next to our business,” Shaw said. “We want it to be inviting and designed to bring people together and leave feeling connected in a way.”
Multiple pieces of art involving tree logs and sculptures by local artist Steve Cross were donated to the drum circle to improve the ambiance of the area. The event even featured a performance by members of Tallahassee Community College African Drum and Dance Ensemble.
“The drum circle is an African-based tradition of bringing people together in a space where they can play, speak, and contribute to a scene. The goal tonight is to allow people to leave feeling rejuvenated again after the effects of COVID” Shaw said.
Valentina Lopez, an attendee and fine arts major at Florida State University reflected on her time at the reopening.
“I just felt completely free tonight. I would come before the virus just to sit and work on my art. But when the pandemic arrived I felt like I lost my comfort area,” Lopez said. “I appreciate the work Halisi has put into the drum circle because if they did not revive it I believe it would still be dead. I’m glad it is now reopening before it is forgotten.”
Florida A&M University graduate Linney Osias who served as a waitress and hostess at the event felt a unique connection due to her African and Haitian heritage.
“I recently learned about the drum circle from a friend in Tallahassee. When I was asked to volunteer at the event I was pleased to find out that the drum circle is also used as a tool to get together in Haiti,” Osias said. “Being of Haitian descent I felt connected like I was back home with all of the unity I saw tonight. I feel like the event was worth staying out for. I think the drum circle can bring awareness to African-based cultures battling the misconceptions people may have about Black people. Plus the African food provided by Halisi is a bonus.”
Halisi Africa Cafe and Boutique served afro-fusion dishes at the event along with various types of teas, coffee, and juices. In addition, the boutique encouraged future visitors to stop by and check out the imported African jewelry, clothing, and skincare products present in their boutique.
Shaw also announced the launch of a new clothing line called “Halisi Curvy.”
“The line is meant to serve women of all body shapes and bring awareness to the fact that there is no standard body type for a woman,” Shaw said. “We want to be able to show fashion and culture in a positive way and give African-Americans the opportunity to express heritage without feeling out of place. Our shop and the reopening of the drum circle is the best way to do that.”
Shaw says he is looking to begin monthly events at the drum circle in the near future to encourage members of the community to come out and express themselves.
Updates about Halisi Africa Cafe and Boutique and the Drum Circle can be found online at Halisiafrica.com and on Instagram @halisiafrica.