“Singing the Griotsong:
Creating an African American Epic”
A Spoken Word Performance and Conversation
When traveling home from the Million Man March in 1995, African American elder Russell Goings found himself “hearing” the words of a poem that seemed to demand voice. Though Goings had been many things in his illustrious life—from the first African American trader on Wall Street to a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement—he was decidedly not a poet. Yet he realized that he was being charged with creating something that did not yet exist, an epic poem chronicling the African American experience. Starting in his late 60s, Goings dedicated himself to this task, yielding a masterwork that stretches to more than a thousand hand-written pages. A small portion of this poem was published in 2009 as The Children of Children Keep Coming, a 300+ page book that includes illustrations by Goings’s close friend, the iconic African American artist Romare Bearden. In this presentation, Goings will perform pieces of this epic poem, and talk about its creation.
Sponsored by UNC’s Folklore Program, Department of American Studies, Department of English, and the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture