YWDEP is comprised of a small, but dedicated team of staff members, terrific volunteers and adult mentors, talented performing artists, and amazing young women.


At the end of each summer (from 2005-2010), each group of graduates chooses a name to identify themselves by and a name for their performance showcase. Follow the links below to browse our video archives from each year and learn more about the people who made each summer possible.


KRISTEN ARANT (Executive Director) is a drummer, musician, teacher, and organizer living and working in Washington, DC. She began her drumming career upon moving to Washington, DC in 2000, when she helped startthe activist rhythm ensemble Rhythm Workers Union (RWU). Enthralled with the potency of thedjembe, Kristen began to study West African drumming in 2002. She spent time studying with masters such as Baile McKnight, Mamady Keita, and Tammi Hessen. In 2005 she founded theYoung Women’s Drumming Empowerment Project (YWDEP) – a DC-based non-profit that gives rise to young women’s self esteem, creative self-expression and positive development through drumming, poetry, movement, song and performance. YWDEP runs an enrichment program every summer and a drumming school during the year for young women ages 8-22. Kristen has taught drumming empowerment workshops at dozens of local schools and youth centers, performs regularly with her band The Akoma Drummers, and has her own classes for adult and teen students. She has led workshops for more than 100 women at the Southeast Women’s Herbalist Conference and Daughters of the Earth gathering. Kristen has also studied drumming in Ghana, West Africa, and has taught drumming to Ghanaian women.

Teaching Artists through the Years

Princess of Controversy, Margaux Delotte-Bennett, Luci Murphy, Patrick Crowley, Abasi Johnson, Leah Harris, Anu Yadav, Laila Shereen, Binahkaye Joy, Kristen Arant, Mahiri Keita-Edwards, Durga Vasquez, Ximena Savitch, Reggie Cabico, Katy Gaughan, Jaqui MacMillan, Sage Morgan-Hubbard, Michelle Sewell, Linda Krakaur, Elise Bryant, Andrea Sterner, Deborah Randall, Candace Mickens, Holly Meyers, Samaa Claiborne, Becky Umeh, Marcia Greene, Sogbe Konate, Laurie Blair, Jessica Solomon, Simone Jacobson, Elen Alawom, Melanie St. Ours.

Board of Directors

  • Judy Byron
  • Michelle Akaras
  • Renee Panagos
  • Alexandra Silverthorne