Diary of a Mad Black DJ 109: An Artist's Duty
How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? Register HERE for professional development 3/10/21 4PM EST.
Nina Simone is my fairy godmother in my head. I feel her pain, I feel her anger and I feel her passion. As a catalyst of what it truly means to be "unapologetic" and "outspoken", I think that Nina is due flowers for every major black power movement that has occurred on American soil since she has been alive.
Her unwavering commitment to the youth is indicative in her desire to play stages as big as the Apollo, the Met and Carnegie Hall but then insist on going to small traditional colleges around the nation to specifically speak to the even more miniscule population of black students.
I often wonder was if in fact it was Eunice that went to those fancy concerts and Nina that went to those college campuses- or vice versa. Even the New York Times once floated the headline "The Two Faces of Nina Simone" in describing our beloved High Priestess. As if being black, woman and from the South weren't enough identities to juggle in such a schizophrenic country. (One minute you want me to play your town hall and then in the next you don't want to serve me at your local diner.)
I could go on, but instead, I'll invite you to a talk. This Women's History Month I get to join my dear friends at the Apollo Theater Education virtual table in a discussion around women activist and how teachers may incorporate that learning in their curriculum.
I'm inviting you all to attend. This work is meant for all people, not just black folx. It is my belief that if everyone viewed the world through the cultural lens of another for just a day, the world would be a better place.
As I write this journal, I am listening to Baltimore- to be honest I love this song just as much as a protest tune as "To Be Young Gifted and Black" or Mississippi Goddam". This open letter to one of the most poorest black cities in America is so vulnerable and sincere, but all the more relevant today. (I wish that the "Baltimores" of today- Chicago, Jackson, Minneapolis and Detroit could all thrive with the spirit of Atlanta, Harlem or even Charlotte.)
At any rate, here's a snippet from my lecture notes: (it may or may not make it to the talk, but I wanted to share it anyway.)
Reclaiming Black Femme Power: it is asked in this lesson refrain from using words that diminish the power of each artist (namely in regards to Nina Simone and Billie Holiday). Too often words such as “unstable”, “problematic” and “erratic” have been utilized in their stories. If there is a place to discuss their physical and mental health it should be from a scientific objective standpoint and not a subjective one. America cannot continue to be the source of ancestral, mental and physical distress only to blame the fruit and not the root for the trauma.
Note from the Apollo:
APOLLO WOMEN: PERFORMANCE AND ACTIVISM
Wednesday, March 10 | 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM ET
$10 per participant
"You can't help it. An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times." -Nina Simone
Photo Credit: Portrait of the American singer Nina Simone, 1965. National Archives of the Netherlands. Creative Commons.
Be inspired by legendary Apollo women who used their musical talents for activism. Together we will explore their music, environment, and challenges they faced to understand what impact these trailblazers made on entertainment history. Most importantly, we will discover why this is important for students to understand and how to implement the Apollo Theater and activist art into your curricula.
PS In other news...I plan to watch The United States v Billie Holiday this weekend. Last year, while still with Aaptiv, we had a call with Warner Music discussing Andra Day and her work in the film. Artist such as Andra Day, Keedron Bryant, Lizzo, Anderson. Paak and Janelle were always front of mind when it came to Black History x Women's History- American history, lol. At any rate remember to celebrate Black History Year this Women's History month and check out the soundtrack. I'm excited (and hoping that they didn't heterowash our Billie) lol. *fingers crossed*