Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium produces a Jazz Festival every year. 2016 brings our 17th Annual Festival. The Brooklyn grassRoots festival this year runs from April 15th until May 15. This years event was fantastic. View our magazine for a look inside.
each bearing an intimate and personal facet of Nina Simone that was given to the rest of us as a treasured artifact, a valued relic. Tahiya Nyahuma led a large contingent of The Philadelphia Congress of the National Congress of Black Women in a powerful but sensitive recovery of Nina’s lost dream at conservatory. Sister Nyahuma presented the Honorary Degree from the Curtis Institute that had denied her admission at 19, along with the heartbreaking story of Nina’s unjust rejection. It helped me understand how rage can be born from the thing you love the most. . Sister Nyahuma finished with the dedication of commissioned art work in Nina Simone’s name and the acknowledgment of her chapter members there in the church. Those Philly sisters were fine and a great example of how far-reaching the goddess community extends. Then Cecile Tyson spoke on behalf of a long and dear friendship: “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Nina Simone.” From there, she launched into a meaningful recitation of the Langston Hughe’s poem, “I’ve Known Rivers”. It was politely devastating. Then Dr. Verta Mae Grosvenor, herself known to make a skillet talk Gullah, charmed household insights 40 and child rearing techniques into a lustrous and warm portrait of Nina Simone. She began on the ‘mommy network’ but finished by stating that “…Langston dug Nina as much as Nina dug Langston”. Then Dorethea Church, Dr. Nina’s personal stylist, came before us and allowed Ms. Nina Simone on the piano the world a look at Nina dressing. With absolute naturalness, Sister Church spoke of Dr. Nina’s ability to remain elegant under any circumstances, in every situation. Nina Simone held court from the back of limousines. Then Sonia Sanchez looked through the veil and spoke with the ancestors to manifest Nina’s voice. Sister Sanchez shattered us with her poem “Indigee, So Close to the Ancestors…” We are deep in Old World tradition when the voice of the deceased is invoked. This is major Amazon technology but nothing new to the goddess Sanchez. “Nina’s intelligence was kissing our hearts. She was like Nut arching over us.” Sonia has made the Mask talk many times. And the voice came when Sam Waymon, Nina’s brother sang. He manifested her with exact intonation and phrasing. His keyboard work has always contained the same personal virtuosity. The combination was pleasantly unnerving to those who had never experienced it. There in our midst was the living, vocal presence of Dr. Nina, thrilling us like only she is able to; yet she was gone. Sam played generously and graciously in spite of his own grief. His personal salute could not have been better. Then Patti La Belle testified to Dr. Nina’s protective nurturing in a story about champagne in a plastic cup. Patti sang the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ for Nina, after telling another wonderful story about Nina and Andouille sausages. It was all so right. Attillah Shabazz faced her moments of testimony in the same confident stride as the people before her. Crisp and to the point, she put the world on notice that the
fires lit by Nina Simone not only burned brightly in her generation but gave form to their work as well. And then Simone, Nina’s daughter animated the mosaic by pledging that the world has not heard the last of Nina Simone. “She will be in all that I do”. There, was Dr. Nina Simone’s final comment to America: a wide and continuous flow of brilliant, beautiful, talented and fearless Black warrior women [The Amazon Goddess] deeply inspiredby Nina’s life and rededicating their commitment to devour her enemies. Puts lead in Ogun’s pencil to hear the praises of the unbroken. I’m writing to tell you that Dr. Nina Simone’s army is unbroken and way larger than America wants anyone to know. Nina Simone transitioned by releasing forth an army as fierce and multi-faceted as she was. Everyone present drank deeply in the blessing of the collected power on display, while marveling at the size of the personality that could umbrella it all. Dr. Nina’s presence was made manifest by the reflections and memories emanating from the whole church, in what I will always remember as a holy event; the melding of sound to Spirit. I left before the benediction. Having searched among the faces to find her, I handed the tapes I brought to Jo Ann Cheatham and made my exit ducking the encounter with “Young, Gifted and Black”. I needed to walk off some of my feelings before going to work. My head was clouded with the mists of ritual, the touch of the Creator and all that fine womanhood. Spiritual for sure, but something very earthy and sentient as well. As in the words of her song, I had gotten quite a bit of ‘steam on my clothes’. Vibrating is the only way that I can describe the feeling. In a church full of alpha women, the male energy gets to explore how many different ways there are to fall absolutely in love. Among an army of goddesses, mere man strains to keep his focus and his feet turned to purpose. Nina’s army sets a mere man’s world in tension that feels like vibrating because each of them is Iyalode material, each of them a queen and each a compelling vortex of leadership, intelligence and love. High-grade womanhood of such intensity addles as it enriches. I needed to walk and meditate on bearing witness to the birth of a super nova. Galaxy Simone ritually rendered, if you can dig it. I vibrate still, but deeper. It’s more in the bones, pitched at the frequency of ululation, ripples of sound meld to my Spirit and I surrender, conjured and captured in the web of the Amazon. The pull is tidal and cleansing. With my head to the ground, I salute Iyalode Dr. Nina Simone and all those who keep her legacy a factor in this world because so much of living now is ugly and absurd. Nina Simone willed beauty and purpose upon us in the lavish manner of the royalty that she was. Like the people who celebrated her, she kept us in mind of what the best moments of struggle is all about. She raised sacrifice to its exalted position and used her life as an Ebo by which the nation could survive. I vibrate with the joy that comes from knowing generations of Black women who, though constructed from Iyalode elements, are yet content to make life among mere men and give what meaning there is to our world. They give us children and love and faith and labor and wisdom and day to day understanding that breeds the assurance of survival. They also give us heartaches and worries and the weary blues, just like Dr. Nina when telling her truths. I vibrate because love at the level of Iyalode is nothing a man can be cool about nor should he be. Dr. Nina Simone is rightfully the distillate of all Iyalode women and she is enshrined in the pantheon. The ones who circulate among us are enshrined in the bones of the living. Ed Dessisso is a Free Lance writer and is the author of Vinyl Man, which is regular column in this publication. WANTED: Writers and Salespersons For a Jazz-tastic magazine If interested, contact: 718.636.9671 41