The conversation about mental health has been something that has left the Black community divided, however, this group of creatives are on a mission to ensure that it is done.
Donnita Hathaway is committed to using her father’s story to inspire others to address the hold that mental health has had on our community for years. The story of her father, who just so happens to be the late Donny Hathaway, has made its way to the stage through a production titled “The Voices of Donny Hathaway” written and performed by Robert King.
“As a kid, his music was always in our house and I always knew that was my father,” said Donnita, explaining the moment she realized the impact that her father has made (and continues to make) on the music industry as we know it today. “It really wasn’t until I was 18 and the artists that I listened to listed him as an influence that I was like, ‘Oh.. they like my daddy.’ And I went to my mom and I said, ‘You know what, I want to start with the first album, I want to listen with a fresh set of ears and see who this Donny Hathaway really is.
‘”And boy did she listen.
“I listened to ‘Everything is Everything,’ and I went to her and I said, ‘Oh my god, why doesn’t he have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Why doesn’t he have this acknowledgement?'”
Furthermore, Donnita explains her gratitude to her mother for allowing her to find her father’s music on her own and become a genuine fan.
“It’s something that I’m grateful for. That I had my own organic experience as a fan, to realize how wonderful mu father was,” she continued.
Now, by sharing his story on the stage, Donnita hopes that it can prevent others from the grief that has followed the complexities with losing her father at such a young age and explains how this all has been a huge part in her own journey toward healing.
“I get to know more about about myself through finding out more about him,” she explained.
Donnita continued: “It was in 2017 that I realized that I had enough will and intent to do this myself, and so in acknowledging him, i thought it was equally as important, if not more important to tell the story of the things that afflicted his life and why we lost him because I also want to prevent that loss for anyone else… to go through that kind of grief and pain.”
Now, through the Donny Hathaway Legacy Project, she is working to shine a light on mental health while also providing resources to aid in educating, acknowledging and healing.
As Donnita was getting the organization off the ground, she also connected with the creator of the play, Robert King, and the rest is as they say… history.
“Donny Hathaway’s music really played a huge part in my depression,” King explained. “I was going through some stuff and his songs kept popping up so I was like, let me do something with them so I just kind of wrote down a bunch of songs that I really liked.”
From there, he began to ponder on the idea of what one final concert by Donny Hathaway would look like and came up with the concept of a play that not only highlights the late legends music, but the complexities surrounding his death.
“The Voice of Donny Hathaway” will return for its 2023 tour starting January 12th in Marietta, Georgia and will conclude in Ruston, Louisiana on April 22nd.