Woodcarver, Artisan, West African Percussionist
Yusef Crowder was born and raised in Monroe, North Carolina where he attended Winchester Avenue High School and became heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement. In the late 50’s, Yusef joined the Black Guard under the leadership of Rob Williams (Negroes With Guns). Upon graduation, Yusef moved to New York City, found work and continued his political involvement.
One day on a visit to Prospect Park, he heard a sound that would change his life forever the sound of African drumming of his future teacher, Chief Bey. Yusef followed Chief Bey for two years, was instructed in lessons for a year and eventually sent on his way. After a move to Boston, Yusef soulful drumming caught the ear of new converts. He began drumming for a variety of dance classes and eventually founded and directed the African Arts Ensemble (one of the premier African dance ensembles in the country) from 1974-1976.
The realization of a lifelong goal occurred with his journey to West Africa in 1976. He traveled to Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, Yusef found himself without financial resources, wanting to remain self-supportive, he sought the advice of a tailor who asked, What can you do?
In Boston, he had carved a drum and the tailor directed him to wood-carvers on the road to Abidjan. After a two-week apprenticeship, he carved and sold a bowl, exclaiming to himself, Wood is wonderful! Nine years were spent in Ivory Coast where various pieces that were crafted have gone all over the world. Upon his return to America in 1989, he found himself drumming again to survive. He drummed for eleven years with the Uhuru Dance Company and nine years with Barbara Sullivan African Dance Connection.
Yusef has opened the Wood Is Wonderful Gallery in Cascade Heights section of Atlanta, featuring one-of-a-kind hand carved art, authentic, African art and decorative accessories. The gallery also features the artwork of local emerging artists. His consummate love and passion for African culture and history are reflected admirably in his artwork.
In the fall of 2003, Sandra Dickson, Co-Director, (University of Florida, College of Journalism and Communications) interviewed Yusef about his involvement as a young teen with the Black Guard in Monroe, NC. The documentary, Negroes With Guns: Rob Williams and Black Power, premiered at New York CityLincoln Center in February 2004.