Art Steele & Shirley Childress

#LoveInEvolution Sweet Honey in the Rock

’tis the ancestors breath

“Can’t no one know at sunrise how this day is going to end
Can’t no one know at sunset if the next day will begin”

SPIRITUAL, words and music by Ysaye Maria Barnwell


On January 12, 2017 Art Steele, Sweet Honey’s sound engineer since 1978 passed over into the heavenly realm of the ancestors.  He was much loved and appreciated by all of the women who came through Sweet Honey from that time to the present. Art made it possible for audiences to have a totally awesome experience of the group’s music and message.  And even when we were having trouble hearing everything on stage, his favorite line was “sounds great out here!” And of course it did!

He is deeply missed.

On Monday, March 6, 2017 our hearts were broken again when we got the news that Shirley Childress had passed away. She was in a rehab facility recuperating from complications from West Nile virus.

What an amazing gift Shirley gave not only to the deaf and hard of hearing audiences but to our fans worldwide. Her presence was beautiful, immense and electrifying!  An article was written about her a few years back and she was described as the “mother of sign.” We certainly agree. When we introduced her on stage we called her “our sign language interpreter extraordinaire.”  Shirley gave so much of her spirit, grace, love and being to her work with Sweet Honey. She was dedicated. She spent time before and after a show communicating with deaf and hard of hearing fans.  Taught us phrases and words in sign language so we could be in tune with her singing and signing. Because of Shirley, deaf and hard of hearing audiences have had access to the wonderful music and empowering messages that Sweet Honey gives to the world.

Shirley begin her work with Sweet Honey in 1980. Invited to the group by Dr. Barnwell.

Two powerful anchors on our team. Shirley and Art. 

Shirley and Art  both dealt with Sweet Honey’s sound in different ways. Art made sure that our hearing audiences could hear and feel everything clearly during their concert experience. And Shirley did the same for the deaf and hard of hearing audience with her entire being.


Words really do not suffice to express how much they were loved cherished and we are so grateful to have been in their presence for such a long time. Nothing is promised in terms of life and how long it will go along. We take each day as it comes and give all we have to make the planet a better place. Art and Shirley both did that. They were excellent at their craft. Always looking for new and better ways to communicate their gift. Brilliance.  They were both absolutely brilliant.

Many have written about their connection and experiences of Shirley and Art on Facebook. You’re welcome to do so here and on our Facebook page. If you have photos or stories, please share.

Gracious appreciation for the personal and public photos from members, esteemed photographers and fans. Please share this link and thank you all for your sweet supportive and loving kindness.

“Listen more often to things then to beings
Tis the ancestors breath when the fires voices heard
tis the ancestors breath in the voice of the water”

BREATHS, From the Senegalese poet Birago Diop

With great respect,




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