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The Vision I have long held regarding my mother’s legacy is gaining momentum so stay tuned and spread the word as we celebrate the life, music and message of DR. NINA SIMONE!
SIMONE on The Legacy
I have often been asked what it was like growing up with a larger than life personality. My answer is usually “never boring” simply because the question is so broad. I never really gave it much thought until I found myself answering that same question over and over. I’ve come to realize, while others were in awe of my mother, to me, Dr Nina Simone will always be “Mommy”; plain and simple.
Mommy was a consummate artist, a child prodigy who skipped two grades, a mean basketball player and an honor student who graduated valedictorian from the Allen School for Girls. I say all that because anything she put her mind to, she excelled in. One would think I would’ve found that intimidating being an only child, but I didn’t. Mommy never flaunted her accomplishments. She never made me feel like I had to follow in her footsteps. And, she kept me shielded from the Civil Rights Movement and all of the dynamics associated with it for as long as she could. I remember being present when she wrote To Be Young, Gifted, and Black with her then musical director, Weldon Irving. I was 11 years old and she looked at me and said “You need to know who you are and where you come from”. Well, that was many years ago and I have taken the circuitous route only to come back to who I truly am; an Artist. It is in my blood and I am honored to carry on my Legacy with joy in my heart.
On the flip side, I’m a mother of 2 grown sons and an 11 yr old daughter, ReAnna (ray-ah-nuh). While all of my children have a love for all things musical, my daughter has inherited the full spectrum. She writes poetry and lyrics, sings, dances, acts, and has dabbled in a few instruments having now settled on piano (surprise!!). Her father and I do our very best to support her towards her dreams. It is vital our little one, 3rd generation Simone, knows not only who she is and where she comes from, but that she is loved, has a right “to be”, and that she comes first.
That brings to mind a typical school morning that began with an atypical conversation. As I stood at the stove stirring the morning’s oatmeal, ReAnna, who was 6 yrs old, asked if she could as me a question. She was busy coloring as she said the following: “Mommy, if you had to choose between your career and me, which would it be?” I remember my jaw hanging open as I turned around to gape at her. ReAnna repeated herself (probably because of the look on my face:-) and in that moment many things became clear. I told her that she is the most important thing in my life, and if I had to make that choice I would not hesitate in my decision. It was her turn to gape because my answer, she later shared, surprised her.
Then she smiled. And, I did too.
They say ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. Considering I am walking so closely in my mother’s footsteps, that adage certainly applies, yet the subtle differences between Mommy’s time and mine are vast. The best of her lives on in me and when I pass on, the best of us will live on in my little girl as she carries on the Legacy Simone.