As a creative, I believe we are tasked with the arduous assignment of making the fantasies and dreams of our minds and the idealism of our inner-self merge with our social self. With one look at the Netflix original documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” I could feel this same sentiment resonating in Miss Nina Simone’s story. Miss Simone was a genius—a black woman often considered ahead of her time who Qubilah Shabazz, second daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, called African royalty:
“How does royalty stomp around in the mud and still walk with grace? Most people are afraid to be as honest as she lived—she was not at odds with the times. Times was at odds with her. If we were living in an environment that allowed us to be exactly who we are, you’re always in congress with yourself. The challenge is how do we fit in in the world that we’re around. Are we allowed to be exactly who we are?”
Every artist has their battles, and Miss Simone was no different. The documentary shows a very human Miss Simone, one that was stooped in her Blackness like concrete to the ground but riddled with artistic assignment. Miss Simone was riveting and always committed to the push for civil rights through her artistry. Here are a few quotes that got me together—not only as an artist but as a black man living in a time where racial justice is an every day battle (all bolding is my own).
1. “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me—No Fear!”
2. “That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So, I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”
3. To me, we are the most beautiful creatures in the world—black people. So, my job is to make them more curious about where they came from and their own identity and pride in that identity.
4. This is what compels me to push black people. To identify with black culture: giving out to them that Black-Ness; that Black-Power.”
5. “I think that the artist who don’t get involved in preaching messages is probably happier but you see, I have to live with Nina. And that is very difficult.”
“My personal life is in shambles. I’ve had a few love affairs and I would love to be married but everything has had to be sacrificed for the music.”
Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments!