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Honoring Nina Simone

February 21, 2012

Born Eunice Waymon on this day in 1933, Nina Simone has been one of my greatest heros since I bought the 1974 album It Is Finished when I was fifteen. Ten years later I finally saw her in concert, only a few years before her death. Wearing a homemade ball gown and a fancy coat borrowed from a drag queen, I wept upon hearing her sing Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair and Mississippi Goddam in person. Sassy, emotional, fierce, graceful, and imperfect, I always appreciated the way Nina mixed her passion for justice with her love of music. In her concerts, she morphed with the mood of the room and kicked down the imaginary boundaries of genres like “classical,” “pop” or “jazz”. From her position as the “High Priestess of Soul,” Nina could easily have been broken and humbled by the persistence of racism and ignorance in the U.S. or the corruption in the music industry, but she kept it real: “Ha! Do you know what an Obeah woman is? I kiss the moon and hug the sun, call the spirits and make ’em run. They call me Nina, and pisces too…there ain’t nothin’ I can’t do.” I still listen to Nina when nothing else helps.
This papercut illustration was made by me, Bec Young, for our collective book Firebrands: Portraits From the Americas.

Culture & MediaFeminisms & GenderHistoryInspirationRacial JusticeSocial Movements

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One comment on “Honoring Nina Simone”

Thank you for your commentary on Nina Simone. How did I miss her all these years? I always new I loved the theme song from Porgy and Bess but I never new who sang it. Then on Pandora I heard it – anew. She is now one of my most favorite beautiful, of the ether, Songstresses. Just heard Wild is the Wind for the first time. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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