Poetic Justice

Nina Simone on the Role of the Artist

Interviewer: You want your art to live on long after you?

Nina Simone: Oh yes.

Interviewer: And your music says this, and it speaks to Black people.  I want you to tell me what your gut feeling is about.

Nina Simone: Well, look, off the top of my head, as far as I’m concerned, thousands and thousands of years ago, we were, for lack of a better expression, “on top”.  If there were oppressors, they were me and you (laughs).  We were not being oppressed, we had kings and queens.  We had civilizations that we don’t know very much about.  So as far as I’m concerned, my music is addressed to my people, especially to make them more curious about where they came from and their own identity and pride in that identity.  That’s why in my songs I try to make them as powerful as possible, mostly just to make them curious about themselves.  We don’t know anything about ourselves.  We don’t even have the pride and dignity of the African people.  We cant’ even talk about where we came from. We don’t know.  It’s like a lost race.   And my songs are deliberately to provoke this feeling of like “who am I and where did I come from?  Do I really like me, and why do I like me? And, if I am Black and beautiful, I really am and I know it, and I don’t care who cares/says what”.  That’s what my songs are about, and it is addressed to Black people.  Though at times, the songs, I hope, that in their musical concept and in their musical form and power, that they will also live on after I die in as much that they are universal songs.

Interviewer: I don’t think that an artist should be involved in these kinds of things.

Nina Simone: An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when everyday is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.

The Rose That Grew From Concrete – Tupac Shakur

Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it’s dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.

Can You See the Pride in the Panther? – Tupac Shakur

Can You See the Pride In the Panther
As he grows in splendor and grace
Toppling obstacles placed in the way,
of the progression of his race.

Can You See the Pride In the Panther
as she nurtures her young all alone
The seed must grow regardless
of the fact that it is planted in stone.

Can You See the Pride In the Panthers
as they unify as one.
The flower blooms with brilliance,
and outshines the rays of the sun.

Family Tree Tupac Shakur

Because we all spring from different trees
does not mean we are not created equally
Is the true beauty in the tree
or in the vast forest in which it breathes?

I find greatness in the tree,that grows against all odds
It blossoms in darkness, and gives birth to promising pods
I was that tree that grew from the weeds and wasn’t meant to be
Ashamed I’m not, in fact I am proud, of my thriving -family –tree

The tree must fight to breathe
among the evils of the weeds

“We talk a lot about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., but it’s time to be like them, as strong as them. They were mortal men like us and every one of us can be like them. I don’t want to be a role model. I just want to be someone who says, this is who I am, this is what I do. I say what’s on my mind.” – Tupac Amaru Shakur (T.I.P).

The Creative Process By James Baldwin

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