Sheroica Esoterica Nadine Cohodas Princess Noire Excerpt
We kick off our “Sheroica Esoterica” Nadine Cohodas micro interview for Sheroes #12: Nina Simone with an exclusive excerpt from Nadine’s Princess Noire.
P.S. We have to prominently display the below credit line:
From PRINCESS NOIRE: THE TUMULTUOUS REIGN OF NINA SIMONE by Nadine Cohodas. Copyright © 2010 by Nadine Cohodas. Paperback edition published in 2012 by the University of North Carolina Press, by arrangement with Pantheon Books/Random House, Inc. www.uncpress.unc.edu
OK NOW, LET’S HAVE A LONGREAD!
Anthony Antonellis’s GIF for Sheroes #12.
It was more a path emerging than a promise fulfilled that put Nina Simone on a makeshift stage in Montgomery, Alabama, on a sodden March night in 1965. She wanted to sing for the bedraggled men and women who had trekked three days from Selma to present their case for black voting rights to a recalcitrant Governor George Wallace. Nina was following the lead of James Baldwin, her good friend, mentor, and sparring partner at dinner- table debates, a role he shared with Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry. They were her circle of inspiration, writers who found their voice in the crackling word on the page—the deft phrase and the trenchant insight that described a world black Americans so often experienced as unforgiving.
“I live in between this. I live in both worlds, the black and white world. I am Nina Simone, the star, and I am not here. I’m a woman. My secret self is between these worlds.”
Nina linked her voice to theirs, understanding from the time she was Eunice Waymon, a precocious little girl in Tryon, North Carolina, what it was to be young, gifted, and black, even if she couldn’t find the words to express it. On that stage in Montgomery, long since transformed into Nina Simone, she sang “Mississippi Goddam,” her litany of racial injustice and a signal that she, too, had found her spiritual assignment: to use her talent for the singular cause of freeing her people and not incidentally herself. She never suggested the task was easy, and anyone willing to listen, willing to heed her exhortations, could engage in the struggle at her side. “I didn’t get interested in music,” Nina explained. “It was a gift from God.” But when private demons besieged her, a rage of breathtaking dimension obscured that gift, blinding her to everyday realities even as the anger informed her creations and at the same time served to attract, provoke, and on occasion repel an audience. Yet through it all came the unmistakable pride of accomplishment. “When I’m on that stage, I assume honor. I assume compensation,” she declared, “and I should.”
Chiara Passa’s GIF for Sheroes #12.
In the best of times Nina could embrace the mysteries of her art, finding comfort in the ineffable. “Did you know that the human voice is the only pure instrument?” she wrote one of her brothers. “That it has notes no other instrument has? It’s like being between the keys of a piano. The notes are there, you can sing them, but they can’t be found on any instrument. That’s like me. I live in between this. I live in both worlds, the black and white world. I am Nina Simone, the star, and I am not here. I’m a woman. My secret self is between these worlds.”| tags: