Children's Musical Traces Path of African Music

Article excerpt

There is a small church in Yulee with a small learning center attached to it, in which a small number of African-American families gathered this week to watch their children perform.

But the range of emotions in that play was far from small.

Raw might be the word.

The play took place in the Rose Lennie Developmental Learning Center, right next to the O'Neal Memorial Baptist Church, which was founded in 1947 by the grandfather of the center's current director, Eleanor Simmons. Lennie Simmons baked and stacked the bricks that made the church.

To begin, six very nervous preschoolers whispered Kum Ba Yah and a few other songs to the delight of family and friends. Then about 25 older children eased into the room in single file to sing the songs and speak the poems of Without a Drum: A History of Black Music in Song and Verse.

The play followed the evolution of black music from Africa to America. It also interposed positive messages throughout the representation of the throes of America's first Africans. …