My American Dream Sounds Like Nina Simone

Jan Persson/Redferns/Getty Images
Jan Persson/Redferns/Getty Images

In a piece for NPR, Salamishah Tillet reflects on the singer's legacy and concludes that her aspirations for this country still haven't been achieved. 

Her music, as alluring and open as democracy itself, reconciled the divisions between artist and activist, protestor and patriot, and African-American citizens and their country. Living in exile for the rest of her life, Simone never found full freedom here in the United States. It was on stage and in sound that she bridged our chasm between America's promise and its racial reality.

And yet this year, the dream seems as elusive as ever. As we live in the historic moment of the first African-American president, we mourn the murder of the African-American teenage boy, Trayvon Martin. The former is reason for the American dream to remain on our horizon of racial redemption. The latter is a reminder of far we still have to go, a time travel back to the funerals of the children Simone elegized: Emmitt Till, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.

Today, Simone's voice is everywhere. But that's only because everywhere we go, we still need to hear it.

Read Salamishah Tillet's entire piece at NPR.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.


Salamishah Tillet is a rape survivor and co-founder of A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit that uses art to end violence against girls and women. She is also an associate professor of English studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Sites of Slavery: Citizenship, Racial Democracy, and the Post-Civil Rights Imagination. She is working on a book about civil rights icon Nina Simone.

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