Remembering John O’Neal

Like so many who knew and loved John O’Neal, our Alternate ROOTS family is grieving his passing. A ROOTS founder and elder, John’s legacy as a national treasure will be forever felt through his plays, stories, and the arts/activist organizations he founded/co-founded: Free Southern Theater, Junebug Productions, and ROOTS. The memory of John will live on through the generations of artists and cultural organizers he taught, inspired, and challenged to do our best work rooted in justice, love, and liberation.

John impacted so many lives in so many different ways. He taught us to listen deeply and get to the truth in story circles. He taught us the importance of leaning into elders and the power of historical memory. He pushed us with his rigorous, thought-provoking questions. For those of us who were lucky enough to break bread with him, we hold a truly precious gift of better understanding the world, and the South, with a richness and depth that infused everything John touched.

A Homegoing Celebration for John will take place on March 30th from 1-3pm at Ashé Cultural Arts Center in New Orleans. There will be a Second Line in John’s honor immediately following the program.

We send our deepest condolences to his family – especially his wife Bertha Ragas-O’Neal, and children Wendi Moore-O’Neal and Webo (William Edward Burghardt O’Neal) – as well as our brothers and sisters at Junebug Productions. May he rest in love, joy, and peace, and continue to share in story, now with the ancestors. Ashé~

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Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.