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On Oct. 16, 1995, when scores of black men gathered on the lawn of the Washington Mall for the Million Man March, Russell L. Goings sat down to write an epic poem, The Children of Children Keep Coming. It was released Jan. 14 by Pocket Books Publishing and is his first book of poetry.
“Do you know what I saw coming over the mall? … I saw black men that just kept coming. They came in limousines. They came on crutches. They came walking. They came crying. They came to stand together to declare that I am my brother’s keeper,” Goings says.
Incidentally, the title of his poem is befitting of the life that Goings, 77, has led and continues to lead. He grew up strong enough to play professional football for the Buffalo Bills but is also so sensitive that he can’t walk near the ocean without falling humbly silent, reminded that the spirits of his ancestors–Africans who were thrown or who jumped overboard from slave ships–were very much alive at the bottom.
He says that while playing football, he was “dumb enough” to be late for practice because he was reading poetry. Yet he was smart enough to become founder and chairman of First Harlem Securities, one of the first full-service, African American brokerage firms to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, and smart enough to help found Essence, the first magazine geared to black women.
Goings faced several challenges in his youth, suffering from dyslexia as a child. (He couldn’t recite his ABCs until the sixth grade.) That challenge, combined with the obstacles he faced on the football field and the struggle of being a black man on Wall Street, served as fertile ground for his creative ideas about a people who persevere.
In The Children of Children Keep Coming, metaphors abound along with alliteration and homonyms. (For example: Jim Crow owns crows that drink from Ida B. Wells’ Wells.) The book is an episodic narrative that includes real and documented people as well as mythological characters.
“I can not come this way through the benefit of [Harriet] Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Rosa Parks and not pay homage to them,” Goings says. “As a people, I believe we need to create our own mythology. Everybody’s got their own. Africa is full of mythology. The only reason we don’t have one is because we’ve only been writing and able to handle our own [literature] for 144 years.”
Along that line of thinking, Goings created characters such as Calli, a child-like bard he modeled after Calliope, the Greek goddess of epic poetry. Calli tells the story of Rosa Parks and her various triumphs and people she meets along her journey. Goings also includes Jesse Owens, the Olympic gold medalist in track and field who, in the