On Nina Simone, Spider-Man, And What It Means To Be A Black Cultural Icon

How we whitewash the blackness of our heroes

We have to remember our heroes. They’re important to us. America is all about remembrance — we remember the Alamo, 9/11. The only thing that always falls to the wayside is black culture. As Barack Obama once affirmed, America is black culture. Our culture continues to entertain and empower long after our heroes have passed. No one knew that better than Nina Simone, the woman who told Martin Luther King Jr. she wasn’t “nonviolent” and then sang the defiant and joyously black “Mississippi Goddam” with lyrics like, “you don’t have to live next to me, just give me my equality,” effectively protesting from the stage. Martin’s utterance of the word “nonviolent” follows him around wherever he goes, his words evolved into cuddly nursery rhymes used to present a tame image of a black radical who talks about having dreams. We barely remember the man who said, “I’m sorry to have to say to you that the vast majority of white Americans are racist, either consciously or unconsciously.”

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