Author and Illustrator Tell the Story & Paint the Picture of the History of Gospel Music

Tuesday, 04 January 2011 09:48 Written by  Iya Bakare

Author Toyomi Igus and illustrator/artist Michele Wood join forces again to create a work that poetically illustrates a significant part of both African American and American history. In I See the Rhythm of Gospel, the Coretta Scott King award-winning writing team narrates the history and paints a colorful 40-page masterpiece of gospel music in America through a poetic timeline.


Igus said the original I See the Rhythm followed the history of African American music and all styles of it – from work songs and spirituals to rap.

“We knew that gospel music, in particular, evolved in response to the social, political and cultural changes in much the same way, and we thought we could develop a sequel based solely around that musical form and its habits,” Igus said.

Wood said the idea came to her in 2004 when she worked for a Christian bookstore.

“I waited because the vision I received scared me,” admits Wood. “I wanted to be sure in my spirit what I envisioned was from the Lord. I waited about a year until I approached Toy.”

With Wood in Indiana and Igus in California, the two made it work by communicating through phone and email conversations where they each expressed their visions of the book from Igus’s outline. Wood’s paintings came first and Igus’s words followed.

“It was a backwards format, but it works well for us,” admitted Wood. “I work where the mood takes me. There are hidden meanings couched in most of the work that I do.”

Over the course of two years, both Wood and Igus conducted research for the project to ensure accuracy in both the artwork and the text.wood

“It’s a part of our history, a part of who we are and a part of our fabric that makes up America,” said Wood.


Michele Wood

The goal was to create an easily accessible book with music for all ages and all races, although it’s mainly tailored to children age six and older. According to Igus, one of the other purposes of the creation of the project is to grab the attention of churches and educators as an educational tool.

“We must do more in the African American community to understand our community and our history,” said Igus. “Without this, young people lose sight of what it took to gain the freedoms we now enjoy. Because political, social and economic pressures do not allow many people to get a strong education, we as parents need to take it upon ourselves to teach our young people the things they won’t learn in a classroom.”

Toyomi Igus

Igus admitted parents need to pick up where the country’s school system drops the ball in regards to African American history curriculum.

“Our school systems don’t do a good job of teaching students about people of color and how all of our experiences and histories are interconnected, so any time we can draw attention to that, I think we are doing something important,” she said.

Within the next year, Igus and Wood will launch their “I See the Rhythm” website ( for educators that will feature teacher guidelines and other useful information.

The book is available online at Amazon and the book’s publisher Zondervan and Christian bookstores.

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare, GMO's managing editor, earned both her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in print journalism. She earned her B.A. from Delta State University with a minor in English and graduated with a M.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago. In her spare time, the Chicago native continues to freelance and ponder ways to both inform and improve her community one story at a time.

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Follow her on Twitter: @ibakare


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