The University is celebrating Nina Simone for her words — not just the ones she put to music, but also the ones she used to speak against racial injustices during the civil rights movement.
The Sonja Hayes Stone Center for Black Culture and History opened an exhibit Thursday that honors her life.
SEE THE PLAY
Time: 7 p.m., Saturday. 2 p.m., Sunday
Location: Stone Center Auditorium
Simone held a long career as a musician, mainly with jazz music, and wrote songs that addressed the struggle for civil rights. She died in April 2003.
The exhibit — “Nina Simone … What More Can I Say?” — opened Thursday and is curated by the center’s director, Joseph Jordan. It will run through November.
Local playwright Howard Craft created a commemorative one-act play of the same name, which will run for two shows on Saturday and Sunday.
As the Stone Center’s artist-in-residence for spring 2012, Craft was approached by Jordan to create the play.
Craft said he views Simone as an icon.
But Jordan said she is not as well-known for her activism.
“(Simone) was very committed to social causes,” Jordan said. “Despite her achievements, she has not been recognized as much as some other folks.”
Jordan said that Simone’s music is recognizable because it has been featured on movies, such as Crazy, Stupid Love, and commercials — but not many know the real story behind the music.
Many do not even know that she is from North Carolina, Jordan said.
Craft said the exhibit will feature pictures, letters and artifacts of Simone’s that the public has never seen before.
The exhibit will feature correspondence between Simone and her brother, Carroll Waymon.
Yolanda Rabun, an international recording artist, was approached by Craft to play Simone for the one-act, one-woman production.
“I grew up listening to Nina Simone,” Rabun said. “I was intrigued with the idea of sharing her story.”
Craft said he chose Rabun for the part because he believed she could communicate Simone’s feisty spirit to the audience.
“For me, it’s exciting,” Rabun said. “It’s a great opportunity to show a different level of emotion that a person can go through.”
Kathy Williams, a faculty member at the UNC Center for Dramatic Art, will direct the play.
She said it has been a joy to discover Simone’s life.
“I’ve never seen another piece done on her, and I think she’s such a fascinating character,” Williams said.
“People know little of who she truly was.”
Williams said Rabun is a natural talent and fitted for the play, which is written as if Simone has come back to talk to the audience about freedom.
“I think she captures Nina beautifully,” she said.
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