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Russell L. Goings
“The children of children are African American descendents who, despite hardship, slavery and murder, just keep on coming, keep on persevering, moving from the past to the present,” says Russell L. Goings, author of the poem “The Children of Children Keep Coming: An Epic Griotsong.” Published in 2009 by Pocket Books, “The Children of Children Keep Coming” received enthusiastic reviews for its portrayal of the black experience in America.
On Saturday, Feb. 12, and Sunday, Feb. 13, Goings, opera singer Clinton Ingram and actress and singer Sherrie D. Strange will join students from West Chester University in a dramatic interpretation of “The Children of Children Keep Coming.” Hosted by the West Chester University Poetry Center, the free performance is punctuated with sung passages and projections of drawings by renowned artist Romare Bearden depicting many of the heroes from the narrative.
Goings says of his work, “‘The Children’ is the attempt to synthesize the notion of a griot [West African storyteller/musician/oral historian] with the blues, jazz, gospel, ragtime, Dixieland, with the melding of cultural elements. … There is never a notion of bitterness, vindictiveness, recrimination. What is permanent is that there is within the African American experience an abiding faith that our God, the universal God, will open a day when we will no longer have to ask the question, ‘Is this the day?’”
The griotsong plays out in three parts – Taking the Train to Freedom, Jubilee, and Celebration of Survival – beginning with the flight of the enslaved and culminating with a gathering of famous African American leaders, including Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, John Brown, Nat Turner, W. E. B. DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, Sugar Ray Robinson, Adam Clayton Powell, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and many others.
Director David Yezzi notes that “The message of the piece is the universality of mankind. Russell is a Homeric poet of our experience as Americans. It draws on all aspects of our heritage as a nation.”
Goings, who studied writing at Fairfield University and the 92nd Street Y, has been writing poetry for only 16 years, having started in his sixties. He was a pro football player; the first African American brokerage manager for a New York Stock Exchange Member firm; an inductee into the Wall Street Hall of Fame; the first owner of an African American firm to manage assets for Fortune 500 companies; the first African American chairman of the Studio Museum in Harlem; and founder and chairman for Essence magazine.
Goings is joined onstage by West Chester University students, plus professionals Clinton Ingram and Sherrie D. Strange.
Ingram has performed every tenor role in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess dating back to 1989 when he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the role of Mingo and, most recently, in more than 300 performances as Peter the honeyman. He has also been a featured principal in a number of standard operas and has appeared in several contemporary operatic premieres. He is choir director at his Christian Parish for Spiritual Renewal in Harlem and recently retired after 37 years of teaching and directing the chorus at Manhattan Country School. Strange, an actress and singer, is a native of Cleveland whose credits include Clara in Great White Hope, Water Girl in Medea, Alicia in Lucia Di Lammermoor, Ann Page in Merry Wives of Windsor, First Spirit in Die Zauberflote, and Angelina in Trial by Jury. Most recently, she appeared in Sistas on Fire at Nassau Community College and reinterpreted the role of Rosa Parks in Russell Goings’ “The Children of Children Keep Coming.” As a featured soloist at Aaron Davis Hall she performed Poulenc’s Gloria with the boys’ choir of Harlem.
Kim Bridgford, director of the WCU Poetry Center, sees the project as perfectly in sync with the Center’s mission: “The Poetry Center emphasizes both form and narrative, and Russell Goings’ “The Children of Children Keep Coming” does both. … This production, which emphasizes the universal quality of the human spirit, shows the glorious sense of possibility innate in all of us, how it is better for everyone if joy wins in the end.”
The free performances are Saturday, Feb, 12, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. in Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, High Street at University Avenue. Contact the Poetry Center for more information: 610-436-3235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.