Y’all know how BET usually gets down, but I was so happy and relieved. I say I saw “some” because I don’t watch TV, but I do follow the glorious Ledisi on Twitter and I’m a fan, so I looked up the video highlights. In particular, the performance of Nina Simone’s “Four Women” by Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott–who is some sort of Root Worker Goddess, and Ledisi–another equally luminous Root Worker Goddess–was simply lovely.
AND Ms Ruby Dee was honored. I don’t know if y’all know it, but I worship Ms. Dee. Her performance of Ruth in Raisin in the Sun was life altering for me.
I know it sounds silly, but with For Colored Girls out this past weekend, and doing a respectable $20 million in sales, and now, a reasonably-nice-and-not-shameful BET special on Black women in which nobody got naked and/called a Black woman a whore (at least, not in what I saw), I’m feeling like people in our Black community might start giving Sisters a tad bit of respect. Or, I’m feeling like we finally are starting to feel like we might cut somebody if we don’t get our respect, instead of simply complaining. Either way, that’s got to be an improvement, right?
I love myself some Nina Simone, and so, I thought I would share a poem (below) that I wrote about her original version of “Four Women;” I wrote this poem when Ms. Simone passed and included this poem in my third book, Red Clay Suite.
Here, One of Your Four Women
…….for Nina Simone
Given a row to hoe, strain
until it yields justification.
A body drifting toward the grave;
or a girl too young to take her truth bravely;
or a lady grown, holding onto the men
who don’t want her;
or the last of the line, broken—Peaches—
dueling the air with her fist.
Each with the hoe grasped, every
so often her fingers brandished
as weapon, pulling the scolding
weeds, unrepentant, from the ground.
Each dropping the hoe, salute making
her brow a space of shade.
Heat shimmying, same row,
wisdom (shoot—work on some more),
chords of light sneaking away.
Wait—is that a note of praise
pinched now from a scarlet-breasted
creature, lifting over the crown of trees?
Here, one of your four women, Nina.
What marks her mocked, mocking horizon?
Stilled, she sighs over a small,
Quickened, that woman bends, rises, bends: