guest blog post // ‘Bravo to On Q’

Russell L. Goings, author of The Children of Children Keep Coming

Renaissance Man Russell L. Goings, Author of The Children of Children Keep Coming

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.

On Q performance of The Children of Children Keep Coming by Russell L. Goings, 3 Oct 2013 | Photo by Gena J.

On Q performance of The Children of Children Keep Coming by Russell L. Goings, 3 Oct 2013 | Photo by Gena J.

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.

On Q performance of The Children of Children, 3 Oct 2013

On Q performance of The Children of Children, 3 Oct 2013

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.

What’s In A Name

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Queen of the Trumpet Valaida Snow, circa 1930

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

I suppose Shakespeare was right, but with a name as uncommon as Valaida, I’ve always believed my name has in some way influenced my tastes and style. You see, my mother named me after Valaida Wynn Randolph, her roommate and friend at Bennett College. And Ms. Randolph’s mother named her after the legendary jazz musician Valaida Snow.

If you’re unfamiliar with Valaida Snow, you are not alone. Somehow, after her death in the 1950s, her star failed to continue shining brightly as was the case with her contemporaries and fellow musicians Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker.

Here’s a little more about Valaida from Wikipedia:

She was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Raised on the road in a show-business family, she learned to play cello, bass, banjo, violin, mandolin, harp, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone at professional levels by the time she was 15. She also sang and danced.

After focusing on the trumpet, she quickly became so famous at the instrument that she was named “Little Louis” after Louis Armstrong, who used to call her the world’s second best jazz trumpet player besides himself. She played concerts throughout the USA, Europe and China. From 1926 to 1929 she toured with Jack Carter’s Serenaders in Shanghai, Singapore, Calcutta and Jakarta.

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Her most successful period was in the 1930s when she became the toast of London and Paris. Around this time she recorded her hit song “High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm”. She performed in the Ethel Waters show Rhapsody In Black, in New York. In the mid-1930s she made films with her husband, Ananias Berry, of the Berry Brothers dancing troupe. After playing New York’s Apollo Theater, she revisited Europe and the Far East for more shows and films.

Valaida lived an amazing, storied life, performing around the globe and thriving through trials and triumphs. Below is one of my favorite stories about her (hence the orchid accents here).

My fave Valaida Snow storyIn fitting fashion, while performing at the Palace Theater in New York City, she collapsed on stage, suffering a fatal cerebral hemorrhage, and was buried on her birthday. Her final curtain call given with flair. Brava!

So today, on the anniversary of her birth (109 years ago) and her burial at age 51, I am remembering the Queen of the Trumpet Valaida Snow (June 2, 1904 – May, 30 1956), a jazz musician extraordinaire and my namesake, once removed.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video about Valaida’s life.

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