Nina Simone on racism, art and violence
“It's a lot of hell, a lot of violence, but I feel more alive now than I ever have in my life.” – Nina Simone
Blank on Blank is a Youtube channel full of animated versions of real life interviews. This time the chosen one was a little known interview with Nina Simone conducted by Lilian Terry in the 60s. This interview was aired on Italy and now we have access to Nina Simone talking of all things related to her life as an artist, mother and black woman.
When Anne-Marie Willis says that "we design our world, while our world acts back on us and designs us” the most obvious examples are those we already consider related to design, among these the fashion world is a good example, specially when Nina Simone talks about it:
“I love clothes. Yes, I do. I mean, if you come out and you look the way you want to look, you will create a mood before you open your mouth. And sometimes that can be enough to get your audience exactly in the groove, where you want them.
Like last year, I wore the same gown for a year, everywhere I went. I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way. I made it easier for me.
So when came on stage, the illusion was that I was actually naked. I loved that. It always kind of shocked people enough that they became mine immediately.”
The interviewer asks about the last song she interpreted in her show. “The King of love is dead” was composed by the bassist of her band, Gene Taylor, one day after Martin Luther King was assassinated. In this music, as Nina Simone says, the climax is also it’s end. After questioning what would happen after his death the music ends. This musical interruption represents the fight for equality at the USA, a question mark after a bigger movement.
Even amid segregation and seeing people die due to the color of their skins, Nina Simone still found reasons to be optimistic. Not because she see the world as good, but because she knew her fight to be right and worth the efforts.
“It's a good time for black people to be alive. It's a lot of hell, a lot of violence, but I feel more alive now than I ever have in my life. I have a chance to live as I've dreamed.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that your child will be living through the revolutionary years?
I don't know, love. Whatever it is she's going to have pride in her own blackness. She's going to have a chance to be more than just somebody who's on the outside looking in. Like it's been for most of us, and my parents before me, but she may see more bloodshed than I've ever even dreamed of. I have no way of knowing that evolution. The cycle goes round and round. It's time for us."
We who are alive to see the future she couldn’t predict know that the blood still flows and racism is still a problem. However, if we try to be a little more like Nina Simone, strong and somewhat optimistic, then maybe something will console us and things can keep getting better.
See the animation here: