Whenever I am asked about where my scene-stealing child character, March Smithson, came from, I’ve attributed the basic aspects of her character to my niece. My niece and March were both born in the month of March and were both unsettled, busy active children. However, as the events in my most recent novel, The Mayor’s Mission, attest March is a bit of prodigy. She can sing. Then I realized that March had another inspiration–my mother.
My mother was also born in March and had a singing talent. She sometimes showcased that talent as part of a singing group organized by my musician father called “The Gift of Song.” The group, mostly made up of members of my mother’s family, existed for about ten years and went all over the Pittsburgh area performing in churches and concert halls for most of the 1970’s. My father is a scholar of this traditional African American folk music known as spirituals or sometimes called slave songs. Unfortunately, some also called them sorrow songs and just after emancipation, people wanted to forget them. Certain people at Fisk University realized the beauty in this music and organized ” The Fisk Jubilee Singers.” They toured around Europe in the 1870’s earning money to save the college and keep the songs alive. “The Gift of Song” was another one of those groups who helped to keep the spirituals alive.
Still, now in the 21st century, people are in danger of forgetting them. So in honor of my mother, I am posting a snippet of her best known solo “Ride the Chariot,” one of those clever songs that clearly had more than one meaning.
March Smithson’s adventures continue with events that change the shape of her life in the upcoming (June) The Representative’s Revolt. Her own love story comes later this year in The Songbird’s Stand. There’s even a peek into who March becomes by in 1910 in my novella, “A Sweet Way to Freedom” part of The Brightest Day, which will release on June 1. Don’t worry March fans. There’s plenty of her to come.
Happy Mother’s Day!