Building Character through The Sons of Thunder

In Ohio, lack of resources has forced many public schools to discontinue after-school activities and enrichment programs. In Springfield, one United Methodist church offers a cultural enrichment program for two elementary schools.

Covenant UMC offers the Sons of Thunder Rites of Passage to students of Springfield-Fulton and Perrin Woods elementary schools.

Through mentors referred to as “Baba” – Swahili for father or a man in one’s life meriting respect – the curriculum goes beyond drumming. Life skills, understanding when to talk and when to listen, and respecting elders are a few components. African culture and the Swahili language is also part of the program.

The adults leading the program represent professionals in education, African culture and music.

Each Sons of Thunder session consists of five Babas and five students sitting in a circle with handmade drums. In the circle, the boys learn drumming can provide more than just music; the drums can be a conduit for handling emotions. Pastor Jawaad Love said, “We share with the boys [that] whatever you are going through, the drums can take it.”

This year, Sons of Thunder were invited to perform at events like the Juneteenth celebration in Springfield. “Covenant has positioned itself to be the cultural clearinghouse for African American and African culture,” Love said, “and the African drums center us in that space.”

This cultural and educational program is possible through Covenant UMC and the West Ohio Conference. Although the program is centered on boys, Love envisions adding an African dance component to include girls.

To learn more about Sons of Thunder, contact Covenant UMC at covenantumcohio [at]

Click here to watch video of drumming.


Written by Amy Graham, Communications Specialist