Sister Yvetta Eley

On Thursdays, a group of women at Community Assessment and Treatment Services, Inc. (C.A.T.S.) in the Broadway / Slavic Village neighborhood gather in a circle and drum. They drum to meditate. They drum to connect with their sisters. They drum to balance their bodies. They drum to focus on recovery.

At the center is Sister Yvetta Eley of Shaker Heights, a statuesque woman who wears flowing white clothes to match her flowing locks of hair. A grandmother to 18, a great-grandmother to 11, and a mother figure to the hundreds of women who have participated in the “Rejoice in Recovery” women’s drum circle, Sister Yvetta knows the power of music. She teaches the women that when they’re playing the drums using their right and left hands, it balances the synapses in the brain. For women whose drug of choice slowed their natural rhythm, playing the drum forces them to keep up. For those whose drug of choice sped them up, they have to slow to match the group’s rhythm. Drumming is a tool to help in their recovery.

“I teach them how to develop themselves and their character,” she says. “I just happen to do it through drumming and dancing.”

Jessica Farrell, a member of the drum circle, says that it helps her focus on her recovery. “For me, it’s a form of meditation. It helps me relax my mind and think about what I need to think about,” she says. “Sister Yvetta teaches you to love yourself and not let other people get you down. It’s very helpful.”

Delilah Boudreau participates because it makes her feel better. “It gives me a sense of peace, and it’s a way of keeping me motivated,” Delilah says. While the synchronized rhythms of the drum focus her mind, it’s the sisterhood of the members in the circle and Sister Yvetta’s words that heal her soul. “I figured out that I could love myself without having anyone love me. The fact that I could find happiness in something as simple as a drum speaking to me is awesome. She helps us be able to better ourselves and our recovery.The emotions we have when we are together are just awesome.”

As for Sister Yvetta, she gains just as much as her students do through the drum circle, which is sponsored by the Broadway School of Music and Arts, a CAC cultural partner.

“I learn as much as I teach, if not more,” she says. “I tell the ladies that drumming and dancing are not actually what I teach. I teach life. I teach it through the drums. It makes me feel good when I lay my head on my pillow at night that I make a difference.”

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