My attraction to the poetry of Margaret Walker was the result of a New York City subway trip from Brooklyn to Manhattan around February 1998. Printed on a placard from the Poetry In Motion series was a poem by Margaret Walker titled, Lineage. It began, “My grandmothers were strong.” As the subway train rumbled on, I was lost in the words of Ms. Walker’s heartfelt poetry. A few weeks later, I again became aware of the placard with Lineage on it. This time, I scribbled down the poem on a piece of paper, and when I got home, composed music for it. This was the beginning of For My People - A New Musical Work.
Each song has emerged slowly and over a ten year period. I have internalized each poem and tried to envision how Ms. Walker would have read, imagining her gravel toned voice and southern accent. It wasn’t until much later in the composing process that I actually heard recordings of Ms. Walker speaking her poetry. I was amazed and pleased that I had captured her voice, feelings and her way of storytelling.