If you haven’t yet, please go and watch the Netflix documentary ‘What Happened Miss Simone?’ It shows the creative, inspirational and at times sad and violent life of unfogettable pianist, songwriter, singer and activist, Nina Simone. The documentary, produced by Simone’s daughter Lisa Celeste Stroud also a singer and performer, reveals the legendary activist’s life as a child, and how she became one of the greatest artist of all time. The nearly 2 hour special is full of never before seen interviews, photos and performances of Miss Simone, it really is brilliant. Here are 5 quotes from ‘What Happend Miss Simone?’ That really made me say yas!
1) “I’ll tell you what freedom means to me: no fear”
Miss Simone’s response to the question is one of the most honest quotes throughout the documentary. Do you know what it’s like to live with no fear? Being yourself, unapologetically you while living your dreams, no matter the world’s opinion? That is living with no fear. That is the definition of freedom. Simone felt she was never given that priveledge.
2) “If you look at all the suffering black folks went through, not one black man would dare say Mississippi Goddam”
Dick Gergory, entertainer and activist said this regarding one of Miss Simone’s most powerful songs: Mississippi Goddam, written after the murder of Medgar Evers and the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing that killed 4 black children. This quote here spoke so much to me because he is celebrating the courage of a black woman who stood up and said what so many others didn’t have the guts to say. He is recognizing Nina’s strength in speaking up during a time when it was very difficult to be black, let alone a black woman. Black women today are still bravely speaking out to injustices, standing up in the face of adversity and still saying what no one else has the courage to say.
3) “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”
The was said by Miss Simone during the hieght of the civil rights movement. Artist today rarely comment on the social and justice issues going on today. Largely due to the fear of becoming blacklisted, non commercial and honestly like Miss. Simone, labeled ‘an anger revolutionist and too black’. Even so we have a few public figures like J.Cole, Jesse Williams, and Amandla Stenberg who do talking about the black experience and use their platform to reach the masses. Prior to this Miss Simone said ‘I don’t think you can help but be involved, young people black and white know this’. Many young people today of all colors and races are leading the fight for justices, they are marching, talking and making changes in their communities and circle that really matter. It is an everyday battle and issue that many can’t and refuse to ignore.
4) “…we don’t know, it’s like a lost race”
My favorite part of the entire documentary is at the 53 min mark, let’s just call it the Young, Gifted and Black period. Here we see Nina really coming into here role as one of the affluent activists of that era. She performed songs such as Young, Gifted and Black , Backlash Blues, Ain’t got no, I got Life’ and many other that’s were so important for the time and even still today. The songs gave people hope and courage to claim their blackness, their Africanness and to not appologize and to take pride in who you are. She challenged the young people of that time to be curious about themselves, where they came from, their identity and their culture.
5) “I’m sorry I didn’t become the worlds the first black classic pianist”
I didn’t scream yas to this line but it was so moving and touching as the documentary ended. The pain in her voice where she apologizes for fighting to be herself and not living up to the expectations placed on her is so sadning. With all her accomplishments and all the lives she touched, she still believed it wasn’t enough and perhaps she could’ve been happier living that life. We get one life, and it is our choice who we become. Although many people in your life may have opinions we have to live FOR ourselves and do what makes us ultimately happy. That is what Miss Simone fought for up until her final days.