This morning I listened for hours to Nina Simone. Sometimes it is too painful to listen to Ms. Simone. Too much pain, too much truth, too much prescience, too much beauty. She blinds one. And then forces one to see. And then blinds again, witchy and sexy and one of the sublime American soothsayers in this country’s entire bloody history.
During one electric moment with her audience, Nina said, “They are gunning us down. One by one. You know they are.” And a man shouted from the rows (pews), “We love you Nina.” And she said, and we all believe it, “I love you too.”
I saw her a year before she died. Now, I am almost relieved she is gone, though she saw this coming with such clarity she would have been the least surprised of all of us.
This picture was taken yesterday, of course. Not 50 or 60 years ago.
I know only shame and anger about the United States. Then I think, well, Nina came from its haunted depths.
But her pain was shaped in large part by the forces depicted so crudely in this photograph. And she left.
All these words: tolerance, progress, peace, acceptance: empty. The words of a white world, blind to the reality of our history and history’s constant repetition, record on repeat.
Nina became ill with rage.
Or was it Sight?