Ndigo Washington, founder of Healing Drum Collective

Traditional African healing has been in existence for many centuries yet many people still seem not to understand how it relates to Almighty God and religion/spirituality. Some people seem to believe that traditional healers worship their ancestors and not God. It is therefore the aim of this interview to clarify this relationship by discussing a chain of communication between the worshipers and the Almighty God. Other aspects of traditional healing namely types of traditional healers, training and partnership of traditional healers as well as the role of traditional healers in their communities are discussed. Also, it is noted that the services of traditional healers go far beyond the use of herbs for physical illnesses. Traditional healers serve many roles which include but are not limited to custodians of the traditional African religion and customs, educators of culture, counselors, social workers, and psychologists.

Ndigo Washington is a traditional healer, Reiki practitioner using her intuition, insight, and healing energy to help people release negative energy and redirect negative thoughts.  She helps clients/participants, “Recharge and Reset” by seeking to pinpoint the root of their stress, emotional pain, trauma, or anxiety. She offers practical tips to promote grounding, enlightenment, and positivity by using a large Tibetan Singing bowl where clients/participants are required to stand in and experience the impact of the sound frequencies and vibrations when the bowl is struck. This activity, in conjunction with using energy healing and insight into astrology and numerology (at times), enables her to assist clients/participants on their journey toward introspection, self-awareness, and purpose.

Some of her techniques include aura cleansing (smudge/sage); meditation and sharing information regarding chakras/energy centers. She recently partnered with four other holistic practitioners as they formed “The Healing Tree NYC”.  Ndigo is willing to travel throughout the five boroughs, to other states, as well as internationally.

Ndigo Washington is the founder of Healing Drum Collective and a percussionist who she plays congas, djembe, bongos, and other hand-held percussion instruments for over 25 years with an effort to train women and girls of color ages 12 and up the basic techniques to play drums. Her ultimate goal is to create an army of women drummers across NYC, other states, and internationally!! Ndigo is often called to offer libations and joined by female musicians and members of HDC, they perform at social/cultural events, spiritual ceremonies, protests, and rallies.  Ndigo has also accompanied bands, plays, and poets.

Occasionally, Ndigo joined Mama Patrice Ejuwa, Founder of the Healing Drumming Circle to offer healing drumming circles and workshops. They seek to use drumming to help women recover from anxiety or trauma and who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and police abuse. They also offer these same services to everyone regardless of sex, race, ethnicity or age (toddlers and under must be accompanied by an adult). Combined they have over 20 drums in their inventory and are willing to travel

In this interview with ADEWALE ADENRELE of African Development Magazine, Ndigo speaks about African Spirituality and how she had help people release stress, trauma, and grief using the healing drum, her entrepreneurial skills, and her signatures with the aim to make people think, question their beliefs, behavior and to celebrate their existence and connections to each other.  Some of her signature designs include: Africa is in My Heart, Black Love is Alive, Love is the Revolution, Sisterhood the Sacred Bond, and Have No Fear/Black Man is Here!

Below are Excerpts:

  • The 5th African Spirituality Conference attracts global participation and shows that a lot of people are acquiring knowledge across the world, how have you been advocating and sensitizing people about this?

It’s extremely important to expose people born in the U.S. as well as Africans born in the continent about our accomplishments both here in the US and throughout the diaspora. While we come from very diverse backgrounds and experiences there are values that we have in common. I seek to offer information regarding education, religion, and customs that bridge the gaps. I also seek to remind us that we’ve been educated based on European and Western belief systems and the importance of embracing African and Eastern viewpoints instead! I seek to promote and live my life according to principles, values, and a structure that aligns more with an African and Eastern belief system. Therefore, I live my life according to standards that ensure everyone is allowed to benefit and not just the individual. I honor and recognize family members who came before me. Therefore, recognizing the role our parents and grandparents played and making sacrifices so we could have a better life.

When it comes to lifestyle and let’s say Western culture. I strive to defy beauty standards that dictate Black women must “look like” European women in order to be defined as “beautiful”. I made a conscious choice over 30 years ago to wear my hair in its natural state. So I don’t straighten my hair nor do I use weaves or wear wigs. I use a minimum amount of makeup, mostly lipstick and I definitely do not use bleaching creams on my skin.

When African people born on the continent and people born in the Americas, the Caribbean, and throughout the diaspora are willing to see and accept our own beauty and intelligence our overall sense of self-worth and value will be honored, cherished, and revered! Similarly, when it comes to medicine, Western culture dictates that we take a pill and/or need surgery for our ailments. There are other methods that include using herbs, adopting better eating habits like a plant-based diet as well as incorporating yoga, meditation, mindfulness, sound therapy, and energy healing modalities to achieve balance and an overall sense of well-being!

The setup of Tibetan SingingBbowl for the conference
The setup of Tibetan Singing Bowl for the conference
  • There should be a media campaign programme to celebrate Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and tradition through spirituality in purity, with the aim to bring together a wider audience of Orisha devotees, traditional worshipers, and traditional and cultural institutions. Would you support this project, what do you like about African Culture and traditions?

Yes, I would support this type of project and campaign.

A lot of people born in the Americas and throughout the diaspora have questioned and sought answers regarding what we’ve been taught and led to believe about religion.

I can go as far back as my childhood and remember having a sense that something was “off” about the image of Jesus being portrayed as a European. This caused me to reject this image and seek answers. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I can across a book, “The Way of the Orisha” and a subsequent trip to Cuba helped me discover Yoruba.  Images of deities, traditions, and belief systems that are rooted in African culture and promote matrilineal customs are important to combat patriarchy and religions that seek to oppress others. While I respect religions that promote treating others with humanity and dignity, I’ve found solace in the teachings connected to Ancient Kemet. I aim to live my life according to the principles of MAAT. These two religions as well as the Akan tradition provide followers with a sense of pride. Stories, images, and portrayals of deities, Goddesses, Pharaohs, Priests, and Priestesses in the image of black people are something that must be nurtured and protected, particularly as a result of our disconnect from our motherland due to the Transatlantic Slave Trade!

  • Ooni of Ife, One of the foremost kings in Nigeria was hosted by President Lula, as the country unveiled some initiatives for the reunification of the over 100 million Afro-Brazilians via his program tagged “Back To Home”. How would you describe the visit and the program?

Ooni of Ife’s visit to Brazil promoting Yoruba culture for African People’s Peace and Progress Agenda is a “no brainer” for a country with a home close to 100 million African people. Brazilian President Lula embraced the Yoruba King recently and pledged to continue his commitment to building a bridge between the people from both Brazil and Africa. Ooni of Ife declared that Brazilian people will be able to build and reside in his homeland. While extending this opportunity, he also called for President Lula to grant direct access to Brazil to ensure trade, commerce, and cultural exchange between the two countries. History has proven that words uttered by world leaders and elected officials become rhetoric unless they’re backed by legislation and funding. A call for unity of African people worldwide is needed and urgent at this time. African religions and cultures have been dismissed, belittled, and overlooked for centuries. It’s time for African Spirituality to take center stage. As long as the voice of the working class people are included and are invited to sit at the table as plans are developed and implemented, that will be a true win and turning point in the history of bridging relations between Africa and Brazil

  • The Yoruba language is spoken in the West African countries of Nigeria, Benin Republic, and parts of Togo and Sierra Leone, therefore constituting one of the largest single languages in sub-Saharan Africa. Yoruba is also spoken in Cuba and Brazil. Does it mean that many people have their ancestral back in Nigeria?

The interest and increase of African people seeking to learn and speak Yoruba can be viewed as a conscious effort to return to one’s ancestral roots.

Language is an important aspect of promoting one’s culture. We’re witnessing a time in history where people throughout Africa, other countries like Cuba and Brazil as well as locations in the Caribbean and North America African and indigenous people see this language as a connection to the religion. We can conclude that indigenous and African people want to embrace their ancestral heritage and view this as a sense of cultural pride.

Mama Patrice and Ndigo at the 5th African Spirituality Conference
Mama Patrice and Ndigo at the 5th African Spirituality Conference
  • Tell us about your journey as Entrepreneur, what are the challenges you faced while doing this and how did you overcome them?

My journey as an Entrepreneur began in 2002 when I co-owned a shop in Harlem. However, I left and relocated to St Croix, US Virgin Islands in December 2002. I relocated there after a police abuse incident and I needed to recuperate. I was experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). I began writing poetry and that became my tool on my healing journey. I knew I would return to NY and I wanted to put some of my poems and signature statements on t-shirts. I connected with a friend to help with designing t-shirts. I returned to NY with products to participate in the International African Arts Festival (IAAF) held in Brooklyn, NY. As I began considering products, the same designer had a button-making machine. So I decided to include buttons. I now had my products on 3 items, i.e. t-shirts, bandanas, and buttons.

I was able to publish my poetry book and began performing my poems in 2007. Covering vending fees at events and festivals is often a determent for most Entrepreneurs. I was able to vend and sell my products at certain venues in exchange for compensation for performing. Another major hurdle was conducting business as a woman. Unfortunately in the business of purchasing t-shirts and using silk screen designers is dominated by men. There were times when men would cross the line and seek romance when all I wanted to do was conduct business. I was able to secure assistance from my sibling, my brother. He became a valuable and reliable source of support and assisted with creating marketing materials for me as well as with designing my e-commerce website.

  • With your vast experience in your brand and signature #Africa is in my Heart #Black Love is Alive #Love is the Revolution, how have you been able to impact others with training and empowerment?

I seek to impart a positive outlook on life, increase one’s self-esteem, and bridge connections between individuals. I recognize that racism, capitalism, and oppression have impacted Africans born on the continent as well as African Americans born in the US and in the Caribbean. For generations, there’s been a constant effort to divide people of color. So I aim to remind people to be patient with each other. I offer other possibilities and reasons why people behave the way they do. I emphasize that most of our education is rooted in Western culture and that it’s important to uphold African values that promote images and showcase people who contributed to society and history. I also remind people about the importance of living our lives and being family and community oriented as opposed to looking at life from the lens of an individual. As indicated by the belief Ubuntu, “I am because you are” becomes apparent. Lastly, I encourage folk to remember this phrase, “Hurt People Hurt, however, and more importantly Healed people, Heal People!”

Additionally, time constraints were the most challenging, finding time to be creative and juggle home life, work, and business goals was draining. Therefore, I made a conscious decision to leave my full-time job and dedicate my time to pursuing my business goals

Ndigo's signatures
Ndigo’s signatures
  • Have you been to Africa continent and what can you say about NIGERIA?

I’ve had the fortune and blessing of visiting our motherland, the African continent when I was in college. I was a student leader and several student leaders from colleges across the City University of New York (CUNY) were invited to participate in the first African/African American Summit in 1991. This Summit was promoted by Reverend Leon H. Sullivan. The goal was to bridge the gaps between these two entities and promote business and trade. The original itinerary did not include us meeting with college students and youth while we visited Senegal and the Ivory Coast. We pushed for this to happen and our requests were honored. Our trip also included a trip to the Door of No Return. This part of the trip was heart-wrenching, necessary and spiritual. I learned the principle as symbolized by the Sankofa bird. In order to seek a successful future, one must return to their last. Over thirty years later I know this trip was enlightening and a blessing. Every Black, Caribbean, and African American born must experience returning to our motherland and rediscovering our roots!

  • Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory

During my upbringing in Harlem, I remember as a child walking down the block with my brother, who happens to be 3 years older than me. For some reason we were stopped by the police and the police pushed him. I remember being vocal and speaking up for my brother. I must have been around 11 or so when this incident occurred. I’m certain this incident had a direct impact on my actions later in life. When I was in college, I became active in social justice matters and advocating for changes and speaking out against police abuse, misconduct, and killings.

  • Thanks for sharing with us.

You are welcome, Thanks.


ADM 2023


Tags : African SpiritualityHealing Drum CollectiveNdigo Washington
Adewale Adenrele

The author Adewale Adenrele

Journalist, PR, Researcher, Tourism& Cultural promoter, Social commentator. Correspondent @Africandevmag

Leave a Response