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Excerpted from SLATE, September 14, 2020.
On March 31, 1972, the Black cultural center Rainbow Sign welcomed local press for Berkeley’s official proclamation of “Nina Simone Day.” At this staged convergence of Black artistic and political power, the mood was formal and celebratory at once. Multicolored curtains sparkled behind black balloons. Simone listened attentively in a gold lamé dress and sky-blue headscarf as Warren Widener, Berkeley’s first Black mayor and a frequent guest of Rainbow Sign, read from a decree that exalted her artistry, her every song “an anthem to Black people, for Black people, and about Black people.” The director of the Bay Area Urban League announced an official campaign to make Simone’s song “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” “the new Black anthem.” Simone, acknowledging the impact of the song, said that she was “pleased to be an instrument, to give it to my people. It does not belong to me.”
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