I Got Life!
This song is everything. It shapes a space of negation through her vulnerable disposition and her words “aint got no [insert slew of nouns here]” but in the span of 4 minutes and 7 seconds, it beautifully morphs into a space of affirmation as she exclaims “I got life!” That space of negation where she doesn’t even have a homeland or friends or family resembles the silence in Brooklyn that lives in the crevices of the big buildings that make up the material environment and loudly proclaim the story of white Americans, the street signs that memorialize the names of slaveholders, and the history books that diminish the impact black people have made to develop Brooklyn. That silence is oppressive and powerful enough for it to be internalized.
But the metamorphosis.
The metamorphosis is even more powerful and brilliant and electrifying to watch. Nina Simone proclaims in that warm, raspy, and unforgettable voice, “I got my [insert slew of body parts that one uses to identify the self].” That identification is commanding because unlike the things she did not have which were a collection of material items (home, shoes, money, skirts, sweaters, perfume), she now asserts that she has things that indicate she has life. The body parts that develops inside of a womb that makes you whole (fingers, hair, ears, mouth, liver, blood). Even the sorrows of life from headaches and toothaches to bad times grant her a freedom that may never be afforded to you by material possessions. Before launching into all these things, she prefaces it very subtly with “What about God? Nobody can take away!” And it’s this moment of realization, this remembrance of what she does have, whether deemed acceptable in the eyes of the “definer,” that turns her sadness into joy. And this turning point is what I seek to reach with Dare to Remember: A Digital Memorial of Black Brooklyn. That even when acknowledging where we may have been disenfranchised in this (performative) space of negation, we also have life in terms that may not be considered recognizable by those who oppress us.
Dare I say it is the musical analogue to Dare to Remember: A Digital Memorial of Black Brooklyn?