Tales from The b.a.SKET: Black Art Sketches for the Contemporary Art Lover
By D. Amari Jackson
This week, we reach into the b.a.SKET and pull out an incomparable figure in music history…
My skin is black
My arms are long
My hair is woolly
My back is strong…
She continues to haunt us… not like a ghost, for we-folk don’t do ghosts, but a spirit, a melodic, sensual spirit watching us with those large, mesmerizing, unblinking eyes to see if we’ve learned from her lessons—her painful, soul-felt, angst-ridden lessons—the ones she warned us about from behind her magical key-lined instrument.
Spellbound, we, of course, watched her as well. We heard the rumors that she was troubled, deeply troubled, struggling to maintain her tenuous grip on sanity, struggling to navigate what she was told was reality versus what her oft-dark reality told her. Even so, we rooted for her that much more. And while some questioned her sanity, this was apropos; for as a people living in a land that has consistently enslaved, oppressed, and dehumanized us, we are forced to question our own.
My skin is brown
My manner is tough
I’ll kill the first mother I see
My life has been rough…
Nina knew the challenges we would face ‘cuz they’d happened to her. She bore the scars and she sang about them, the trials, the tribulations, the indignities, the assaults, the slights, the inequities, the humiliations, the imprisonments, the enslavements, the rapes, the genocides, the lynchings. Nina was our conscience, collectively expressed in singular form through music. Her magnificent eyes saw what we see and, in doing so, she, our uncrowned queen, paid the ultimate price for her extraordinary view, for her bold, uncompromising vision.
With her linoleum block print, Nina Simone: Humility and Strength, Illinois-based artist, DeSande R, presents a bold vision of Nina.
And as one can plainly see, she is still watching.
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Amari Jackson is a creator, author, TV/web/film producer, and award-winning journalist. He is author of the 2011 novel, The Savion Sequence; creator/writer/coproducer of the 2012-2014 web series The Book Look; writer/coproducer of the 2016 film Edge of the Pier; and current writer/coproducer of Listen Up! on HBCU GO/Roku TV. He is a former Chief of Staff for a NJ State Senator; a former VP of Communications & Development for the Jamestown Project at Harvard University; and a recipient of several writing fellowships including the George Washington Williams Fellowship from the Independent Press Association. An active ghost writer, song writer, martial artist, and journalist, his writings have appeared in a wide variety of national and regional publications.
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