“In the whole world you know / There’s a billion boys and girls / Who are young, gifted and black, / And that's a fact!”
When I was a child, my mom would often play Nina Simone’s music around the house. Although I was young and somewhat ignorant of the world’s complexities, I could feel the power, weariness, anger, and love in Ms. Simone’s music.
One song my mom played on repeat was “To Be Young, Gifted & Black.” Ms. Simone co-wrote this gem with poet Weldon Irvine to honor her friend, renowned playwright Lorraine Hansberry, and to "make Black children all over the world feel good about themselves forever."
I can honestly say that this song helped prepare me for this world, a world that commodifies Black bodies and denies our contributions at the same time that it devalues our lives. It is for this reason that Ms. Simone and her message are featured in my book I Know I Can!
I believe that in order to effectively walk and act in our life’s purpose, despite the oppressive and destructive forces that plague us, we must first love ourselves. I see a lot of viral challenges on social media. Some require you to complete a number of sit-ups or pour a bucket of ice water on your head for a cause. The most recent one requires that you demonstrate your love for your spouse. Well, I would like to add a new challenge to the mix. I challenge every adult with Black children in their lives to first teach those children the lyrics to Nina Simone’s “To Be Young Gifted & Black.” Then, upload a video of them singing any part of this empowering song along with Nina Simone.
When you upload your video, be sure to tag at least two friends so they can join the challenge! Together, we can bring joy to the world and to the Black community, which continues to be bombarded online with images and videos of violent actions and intentions against Black bodies. Let’s advance a different narrative. One that is positive, uplifting, and potentially transformative. Post your video on any social media platform you wish. When you post, please use the hashtag #iknowicanYGB so we can find you!
Links to the lyrics, a live recording, and a studio version of “To Be Young, Gifted & Black” are below.