Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Nina Simone's message in song

No one can scratch your itch or convey your message like yourself. (Ethiopia)

1933 – Nina Simone was born as Eunice Kathleen Waymon.

Have you got a favorite Nina Simone song/message?

"Young, Gifted, and Black" found me in my protest phase, with high Afro, dashikis, and a number of books officially banned by the Jamaican government of the time. For example, my books by Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, and Stokeley Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) had to be wrapped in brown paper and kept out of sight. So for me, "Young, Gifted and Black" has a special place as the mantra of a generation that believed that Black was truly beautiful.

The cover by Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths also carries some great memories for me, apart from which Bob and Marcia are such talented artistes.

Nina Simone, sixth of seven children born to a poor family in North Carolina, stayed close to her roots in the Black community. Although she was trained as a classical pianist at Juillard School of Music, she sang pop, jazz, blues, gospel, spirituals, classical music, songs from musicals and opera, as well as African chants and her own compositions. She became a singer almost by accident. In 1954, a bar owner hired her to play piano, and he insisted that she must sing as well.

Her "Misssissippi Goddam" expresses her outrage at brutality and injustice. Simone wrote this song after a Birmingham church was bombed in 1963 and four Black girls were killed. Not surprisingly, several Southern states banned this song. To hear the Priestess preach it, please click here

She performed and sang at the Selma and Montgomery civil rights marches, and also wrote Civil Rights songs, including one written on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jnr.

In 1970, Simone went into self-imposed exile from the US. She lived in Barbados, Liberia, and parts of Europe, and died in Switzerland in 2003. At her request, her ashes were scattered in four African countries.

Her message lives on.


Pierre said...

I like "Baltimore".

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Thanks much for sharing your choice, Pierre. Great choice - I just listened to the song on youtube -


When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at