Nina Simone and How Far We’ve Come

Someone posted in the Facebook group “Black Lives Matter To Us” that there was an old video of Nina Simone on “Sesame Street”, singing “Young, Gifted, and Black”. I remember as a kid hearing how “radical a statement” the song was at the time. In watching the video, I was astounded to listen to it and think “This is radical?”

To be young, gifted and black,

Oh what a lovely precious dream

To be young, gifted and black,

Open your heart to what I mean
In the whole world you know

There are billion boys and girls

Who are young, gifted and black,

And that’s a fact!


Young, gifted and black

We must begin to tell our young

There’s a world waiting for you

This is a quest that’s just begun
When you feel really low

Yeah, there’s a great truth you should know

When you’re young, gifted and black

Your soul’s intact

Young, gifted and black

How I long to know the truth

There are times when I look back

And I am haunted by my youth

Oh but my joy of today

Is that we can all be proud to say

To be young, gifted and black

Is where it’s at
What was once “a lovely precious dream” is now real to America. Some people are frightened by that reality, absolutely. But no one can dispute its reality. How many incredible Black people I know! How many of my friends have Masters Degrees and Doctorates because they are (in spirit, if not body anymore) “young, gifted, and Black”! 

I know personally (just me): 1) a preacher who gave a Ted talk and is writing a book while changing whole cities with his work. 2) a minister and leader of Boys and Girls Clubs. 3) a late legend in the Bridgeport community, her late husband, and their incredible daughters. 4) dozens of hard-working middle-class pastors who work in the Bridgeport area. 5) the husband of a friend who is now in Bridgeport politics, 5) my area minister and her daughter (who is, apparently, “gifted”according to her mom). 6) a women who used to work in Long Beach, CA government. 7) a couple of brilliant bass players in college, 8) a college dean, 9) a brilliant and warm man from my Deering years — actually a couple of those! The list goes on and on…. oh, yeah, though I don’t know him personally, there’s that family in the White House all of whom are gracious, intelligent, decent, respectable people. 

Yes, there have always been gifted Black Americans. No, we White folks didn’t always know, and there’s still much more we don’t know. But, today, in our midst, are leaders whose parents taught them that they were young, gifted, and Black, and their parents were right! What an incredible blessing they are to our country. 

Now, let me be clear: just because young, gifted Blacks are quite real doesn’t mean there aren’t young, gifted (fill in the blank). Nor does it mean that every Black person is great. No  group — even within the same family– is ever 100% great.  

What I am saying is that we should be proud– all of us — for raising and/or acknowledging that there are what was once unthinkable as a nation, that what once was “radical” to White America is just plain fact today. There are young, gifted and Black folk everywhere. Just a reminder in all the hubbub: we must protect this national treasure just as we must protect any other treasure we have — the part that is the best of America.

Resisting oppression with peace,
John

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