Beautiful, captivating, and affecting. Thanks for sharing with the world, @jasdwrites (Jasmine Slater).
I sat with this piece for a long while, first in silence and then with a playlist I assembled in attempt to capture some of the feels evoked.
I started the playlist with a video from a campaign to end race-based hair discrimination set to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”.
Fortifying Simone’s legacy, “Feeling Good” depicts generations of Black joy and boundless self-expression.
Nina challenged boundaries and throughout her career, encouraged empowered expressions of Black culture and beauty. …the new music video for “Feeling Good” aims to continue Simone’s important legacy by telling a story of Black female empowerment and rejecting imposed expectations. The video follows four generations of Black women living their truths, loving each other, and feeling good.
Source: Nina Simone – Feeling Good (Official Video) – YouTube
I’ve been a fan of Nina Simone since I discovered her music and activism in a college class in the 1990s. I’ve been re-examining Simone’s work lately with the perspective I’ve gained from neurodiversity and disability studies and from my journey getting to know my autistic, bipolar, disabled self.
She was neurodivergent and did her best work as an activist completely unaware she was bipolar and suffering from PTSD. As such, the disability community should embrace her as a savant in the wider sphere of neurodivergent people who demonstrate talent usually limited to the label autistic savant.
Source: Nina Simone: Black Activist, Bipolar Savant | NOS Magazine
Slater is also neurodivergent and disabled. This piece is her first after developing a debilitating medical condition. The music of a disabled, neurodivergent Black woman singing about joy, pride, pain, transformation, and survival felt fitting to Slater’s art and story.
I followed “Feeling Good” with “I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)”.
I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Can you see
Should be free
(Because if we ain’t, we’re murderers)
Source: Nina Simone – I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free) (Live at Montreux, 1976) – YouTube
I love that verse, especially coming from a neurodivergent, disabled Black woman. It offers a core insight of intersectionality and identity politics.
If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.
Source: The Combahee River Collective Statement – COMBAHEE RIVER COLLECTIVE
The ultimate goal of meaningful inclusion for the disability community will never be fully realized until black and brown people are also free.
Source: Racism and Ableism – AAPD
What Lorde and other black feminists such as bell hooks, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison realized was that the more dehumanized groups a person belongs to, the more their experience forces them to understand about the way society is structured: what and who it takes for granted, the truths about itself it chooses to ignore, who is doing the truly essential work.
Source: Letters To My Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism
Concluding the playlist is “Nina Simone – Antibes – Juan-Les-Pins – 1969.”
Simone poured her entire bodymind into her performances.
The set starts with a visceral rendition of Four Women.
My hair is like wool
And my back is strong
Strong enough to take all the pain
That’s been inflicted again and again and again
Source: Nina Simone – Antibes – Juan-Les-Pins – 1969 – YouTube
“Again and again and again” is delivered with such painful knowing.
“Four Women” finishes with a rousing staccato piano run punctuated by the famous line “My name is Peaches!” It gives me chills.
The set includes a joyful “Ain’t Got No, I Got Life”, which offers a celebration of our bodyminds in their actuality.
Got my hair, got my head
Got my brains, got my ears
Got my eyes, got my nose
Got my mouth, I got my smile
I got my tongue, got my chin
Got my neck, got my boobies
Got my heart, got my soul
Got my back, I got my sex
I got my arms, got my hands
Got my fingers, got my legs
Got my feet, got my toes
Got my liver, got my blood
I’ve got life, I’ve got my freedom
I’ve got life
I’ve got the life
And I’m going to keep it
I’ve got the life
Source: Nina Simone – Ain’t Got No, I Got Life Lyrics | Genius Lyrics
Thank you to Jasmine Slater and Nina Simone for an enjoyable session of art appreciation.
We at Stimpunks want to see more of Slater’s work. Support her and her family through life-changing events by sending mutual aid via her GoFundMe.
Here’s another look at the piece that inspired this blog post:
And here’s the playlist on YouTube: