Nina Simone On Blackness, Plus: A Black Teen Chess Master, Single Mom Stereotypes & Other Links

Actually, I adore Zoe Saldana. I think she’s beautiful. And a fine actress with heart and mettle and a kick-assness about her. I think I’ve seen a lot of her work simply because she was in the movies and as a consumer of pop culture, especially black pop culture, she’s earned my respect. But this whole Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone thing just, like, confuses me. Not so much because of what Zoe Saldana isn’t, but because of what the incomparable Nina Simone was. She loved her some us—every inch of our dark skin and our wide noses and our thick lips and our buxom, curvy bodies—every coil in our kinky hair. And she used her art to encourage—no, demand—that we do the same, no matter how much society insisted on reserving it’s tallest pedestals for “otherness.”

I do not deny Zoe her blackness; she has the right to claim it (and couldn’t deny it if she wanted to anyway) and celebrate it as she sees fit. But what responsibility do we have to Ms. Simone’s legacy—her staunch, unyielding celebration of all that popular culture long abhored—as we tell her story? As we remind the world of her truth? As we put a fair-skinned, silky-haired, thin Latina in blackface and prosthetics so that she can portray a dark-skinned, thick-nosed, luscious-lipped, wide-hipped PROUD TO BE BLACKER THAN BLACK black woman whose life’s mission was to represent for those of us who look like her but struggled to embrace it?

I say we put it in the hands of The Queen herself. Ms. Simone’s words speak a piece of her truth. Here, her thoughts on why the celebration of blackness is so crucial for the people:

There has been plenty of discourse on the matter of Zoe Saldana’s casting in the upcoming Nina Simone film, but none as powerful and beautifully written as my friend Akiba Solomon’s piece for Colorlines. I invite you to read her piece, “A Personal Take On the Nina Simone Biopic’s Casting Troubles.” I also invite you to read the open letter written by the content manager for NinaSimone.com.

And other MyBrownBaby Fresh Links:

1. Man Convicted in Michigan of Keeping Four African Boys As Slaves (Clutch)
2. Snoop Lion Drops Kid-Friendly Reggae Video, ‘La, La, La’ (AtlantaBlackStar)
3. Why Is Breast Cancer Killing So Many Black Women? (Ebony)
4. Brooklyn Teen: 1st Black Female Chess Master? (The Root)
5. Anonymous Mom: I Chose Single Motherhood & Have Been Branded A Shitty Mom Ever Since (Mommyish)
6. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Backs President Obama (Wall Street Journal)
7. Chinese say one child is enough as Beijing weighs end of policy (NBC)
8. Police use Taser on 10-year-old at school career day, lawsuit alleges (Yahoo)

Have a fine weekend, family!

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

3 Comments

  1. A thousand likes!! There seems to be a lack of understanding on this particular issue. When I look at the pics of Zoe, who I do like as an actress, dressed as if she’s going to a Halloween frat party at Univ. of Florida (google it)…I am offended and sad. She sat in that makeup chair and let the director’s vision of Nina Simone be projected in blackface and prosthetics. No manner of “great acting” will erase this.

    I don’t see Nina.

  2. Nina’s words are powerful. When I heard about the controversy over Zoe Saldana portraying Nina Simone, I thought, “No, she doesn’t look like her, but does it really matter?” To me it didn’t. Of course, I was a little disappointed because I can still remember how long it took Hollywood directors to cast Halle Berry as Dorothy Dandridge because they wanted someone who looked similar, and then I begin to realize it does matter. Nina Simone fought through her artistic genius to get the world to see Black Beauty, because we all don’t look alike and our very differences should be celebrated. I later asked myself, what artistic gifts does Zoe Saldana possess that will give her an edge, I’m not sure, but time will tell. Hollywood has never impressed me with their fairness, integrity or commitment to black empowerment so this is just Hollywood as usual and Zoe is just trying to stay employed. If we want our children to see black as beautiful we must make it an everyday message and culture within our own homes. Black is beautiful is not a movement it is a lifestyle of loving the skin-deep beauty and acting with dignity even when the situation we face may be chaotic and out of our control. Hollywood isn’t going to teach that to our children, we are.

  3. I have been trying to embed that video for days! How did you do it??? Please and thanks!

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