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Creative Source: Nina Simone

Creative Source: Nina Simone

When I was growing up, hearing Nina Simone blasting from my father’s CD player was a regular thing, so I was familiar with and enjoyed her music, but I knew very little about who she was. That was until I watched the Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?. 

In the documentary, viewers were exposed to Nina Simone’s personality through the reading of her letters and diary entries, along with oral accounts by people who knew her well. The documentary allowed viewers to share her pain as well as her passions, one of which was activism. Nina Simone was crucial to the Civil Rights Movement. She wrote music that highlighted racial injustice as well as music that uplifted and united black people during those times of true turmoil.  In doing so, Nine Simone risked her career. Nina Simone’s unwillingness to back down and the way she strove to use her art as a way to inspire change really resonated with me and helped me not to be afraid of what my art says — that is why I chose Nina Simone as the first entry to my Visual Source Binder. Nina Simone said, “it is an artist’s duty to reflect the times,” and I think that message is essential. 

My work, especially as of late,  heavily reflects the times we are living in. As someone who tries to remain socially and politically aware, I am heartbroken by the things that are happening all around us. As such, I am committed to creating art that speaks out against racism (in the outside world, art world and institutions) violence, inequalities, and other social injustices. Like Nina, I don’t care what that means for my career as an artist. I am aware that by being black and by being a woman, there are already unspoken but acknowledged limits placed on how successful I may be, and I am aware that by creating art that has such charged messages I will probably be pigeon-holed even further. But I don’t care. I couldn’t care even if I wanted to. Like Nina Simone, I feel it is my duty to at least try to incite the change I want to see. My art is my contribution to that change.