Tag Archives: Lorraine Hansberry

Black History Month 2016: Nina Simone

21 Feb

nina-simone2Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to one of my personal heroes, Nina Simone. Simone would have been 83 years old today.  I remember crying my eyes out on April 21, 2003 when I heard that Nina Simone died. I fell in love with her smoky jazz voice so many years ago.  Emeli Sandé credits Simone as one of her major influences

Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born in Tryon, NC, and aspired to be a classical pianist. Despite her prodigious talent, she was denied scholarships and admissions and pursued a career in clubs instead. Eventually signed to Colpix, she was boxed into a pop-jazz mode for a few years. She took the standards she was given and began subverting them with her unique style — she was described as being a piano player, singer, and performer, “separately and simultaneously.” Over the years her stage set became famous for her powerful interpretations and righteous original songs.

Simone’s response to the assassination of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four children, was Mississippi GoddamIn Mississippi Goddam, we see Simone taking her place in the civil rights movement. Unlike Dr. King, Simone advocated violence if necessary in order to establish a separate state for African-Americans – who could blame her. You can only feel beaten down so much without building up a great amount of rage. I have such a great admiration for Dr. King for sublimating his rage into non-violent means. The song Backlash Blues was written by her friend Langston Hughes. Simone was also friends with Lorraine Hansberry and turned one of her plays, To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song.  In 1972, Aretha Franklin did a cover of that song. The song Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood was written specifically for Simone. Her version works simultaneously as a love song and a protest song, showing her emotional depth and complexity.

Sadly, it is painfully clear how much we still need Nina Simone’s voice and activism. I suspect she still inspires many of us. Happy Birthday to the national treasure that is Nina Simone.

Women’s History: May 19

19 May

Happy Birthday, Lorraine Hansberry.  Hansberry was the  first African American woman to produce a play on Broadway, A Raisin in the Sun.  She was also a political activist for civil rights.  Hansberry was a staff writer for the Black newspaper Freedom.  

May 19, 1536, was the day that Henry VIII of England had his second wife, Anne Boleyn, beheaded.  Boleyn was the mother of Elizabeth I.  Henry was successfully married a total of six times. Here are Boleyn’s last words before being executed:

Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it.  I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord.  And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best.  And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.  O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.

May 19, 1994, Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis dies.  Onasis was the widow of John F. Kennedy and the mother of John Jr. and Caroline.

Celebrating Black History Month: February 11

11 Feb

The Legendary Nina Simone

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Nina Simone. I remember crying my eyes out on April 21, 2003 when I heard that Nina Simone died. I fell in love with her smoky jazz voice so many years ago.  I can’t drink gin without thinking of our Nina. Simone’s response to the assassination of Medgar Evers, and the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four children, was, Mississippi Goddam. In Mississippi Goddam, we see Simone taking her place in the civil rights movement. Unlike Dr. King, Simone advocated violence if necessary in order to establish a separate state for African-Americans–who could blame her. You can only feel beaten down so much without building up a great amount of rage. I have such a great admiration for Dr. King for sublimating his rage into non-violent means. The song Backlash Blues was written by her friend Langston Hughes. Simone was also friends with Lorraine Hansberry and turned one of her plays, To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song.  In 1972, Aretha Franklin did a cover of the same song. Nina Simone you are missed and cherished.

Women’s History, January 20

20 Jan

Maya Anegelou

January 20, 1993, Maya Angelou delivers her poem, On the Pulse of the Morning at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Angelou, probably best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was part of the Harlem Writer’s Guild in the 1950s.  Some of my favorite writers were part of the HWG, such as, Audrey Lorde, Lorraine Hansberry, and Sidney Poitier.  Angelou was active in the civil right’s movement and was a part of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Happy Birthday, Harriet Stanton Blatch.  Like her mother, Blatch was a suffragist, and social reformer.  She also wrote a biography of her mother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

On January 20, 1891, Liliʻuokalani becomes Queen of Hawaii. Liliʻuokalani was to be the last monarch of Hawaii.

 

Women’s History, January 12

12 Jan

January 12, 1932, Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-Arkansas) is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. She was the first woman to chair a Senate Committee.

On the wrong side of history: The US House of Representatives rejected the Suffrage Proposal on January 12, 1915.

Happy Birthday, Caroline Severance, early suffragist, social reformer; co-founded the American Woman Suffrage Association (1869); first woman to register to vote in California (1911).

January 12, 1965, Lorraine Hansberry dies at age 34.  Hansberry was best known for her play, A Raisin in the Sun.

Lorraine Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun

 

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