Following a recent performance of Russell L. Goings’ The Children of Children Keep Coming by On Q Performing Arts, Inc, Irene Blair Honeycutt wrote the piece below. On Q, a nonprofit theater company that presents performance works reflecting the Black experience, opened its fifth season with a staged reading of The Children of Children. The production took place October 3-5 at Duke Energy Theater in Charlotte.
The theater was almost filled, and among the audience sat Russell L. Goings himself. Sitting in a row nearby, I could hear Goings’ occasional deep-throated “uh-huh,” “yes,” “amen,” and see him shake his head in approval and sometimes wipe tears from his cheeks. Quentin Talley, artistic director, and his talented cast had clearly captured the power of this Griot song. The theater itself seemed to rattle as if a train were coming around the corner bearing the likes of Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.
This locomotive style was pronounced throughout the performance with knee- and hip-slapping by the performers who read, sang and danced their way through the trials of slavery up to and through the modern Jackie Robinson, the clang of integration, while killings, beatings, and the KKK still threatened blacks to stay in their places—separate water fountains, back seats on the bus (if any seat at all!)—stepping aside to let whites pass on sidewalks. The voices of Rosa Parks, Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson; the blues and jazz of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis…these were conjured and many heard and others—all threaded throughout this moving poetic narrative.
The Children of Children Keep Coming ultimately reflects Goings’ belief in a universal god and in a humanity that reaches beyond bitterness toward universal healing. Goings has said of his work that it “is the attempt to synthesize the notion of a griot (West African storyteller/musician/oral historian) with the blues, jazz, gospel, ragtime, Dixieland.“ In 90 minutes with no intermission, On Q melds Goings’ themes of cultural change without missing a beat.
I came away elated, with a renewed sense of how far we have come and how the children keep coming on many levels, that freedom awaits all who endure, and that hope and inspiration transcend indignities and bitterness. This production will surely find its way to the next level! Bravo to On Q for such a cohesive, energetic, awe-inspiring performance!
Irene Blair Honeycutt is author of four books and teaches creative writing. She is founding director of the Spring Literary Festival at Central Piedmont Community College and served as a member of the College’s faculty and staff for nearly four decades.