In the song “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free” performed by Nina Simone and written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas, there is a line where she sings “Like a bird in the sky, how sweet it would be, if I found I could fly”. For this piece, I was directly inspired by that line which transpired in the image of a girl with an owl on her shoulder as her companion as she moves through the life. It is a reminder that as you strive to reach great heights, be aware and observant. Think before you act, but never be afraid to fly. The cityscape depicted within her is a reflection of her surroundings. Her hair is reminiscent of a young Nina Simone in the pictures where she wore her hair in an afro, back when it was (and still is) a political statement. Her comb is a long-standing symbol of black pride and culture – it was introduced in 1969 by Samuel H Bundles, Jr. and Henry M. Childrey. It’s significance and function is just as important today and you can find them in any store that sells black hair care products. The fist is still visually tied to movements today such as Black Lives Matter, one that garners a lot of criticism from folks who fail to see the racial inequality that exists in the United States.
When I hear Nina Sing, “I wish you could know what it means to be me, then you’d see and agree that every man should be free”- I feel as if she could be saying that today. Even though the song was written in the 1960’s, its message and wish is so applicable to many folks today. With this color palette, I wanted to tie this piece in with a piece that exists in the neighborhood of Roxbury in Boston. That piece also features a woman with an owl on a street corner, present and aware. Instead of facing the viewer, this woman is looking forward to her future, referencing the line “And though I’m way overdue, I’d be starting anew”.