"What's It Like to be Oppressed?"

One day, during one of my boring piano lessons at Curtis with Eleanor Sokoloff, while I was playing scales and Pischna exercises as usual, out of the blue Mrs. Sokoloff asked me: "What's it like to be oppressed?" I thought about it, and didn't know what to say. This woman was my teacher, after all, and I didn't know if my answer was going to affect my grade or what. It wasn't like I felt like my identity was so strongly tied to the black community, aside from my parents being on the faculty at Fisk University, and my being raised in a segregated black neighborhood and assigned to segregated black public schools. The black children at my school had bullied me mercilessly throughout my years there, perhaps because of my skin-color, or the fact that my mother demanded that I speak correctly and not use any of the slang that they all spoke. In fact, the one place where I was free from bullying was at the music conservatory on the white side of town. That was wher…

The Fisk Jubilee Singers in Great Britain: 1900-1903

I am currently having a delightful correspondence with a gentleman in Dublin, Ireland, who is a member of the Historical Society of Dublin. As some of you are aware, I have been steadily transcribing letters written by my maternal grandmother, Nina Hortense Clinton, during her travels in Great Britain with the Fisk Jubilee Singers under Frederick Loudin. In a letter written in Dublin in 1901, my grandmother mentions that she and the group were filmed with a "cinematograph." Of course, I am now on a mission to find that footage.

Meanwhile, here is a short promotional article on her letters, which will certainly become a book in the near future.

Letters to my Parents from the United Kingdom: 1900-1903

By Nina Hortense Clinton Edited by Nina Kennedy*

While rummaging through my parents’ belongings after their deaths, I happened upon a small suitcase containing tied bunches of letters addressed to my great-grandparen…

The National Museum of African American Music

Back in October when we were in Nashville for the Fisk Jubilee Singers Alumni Awards Concert, we met with the directors of the new National Museum of African American Music, which is scheduled to open later this year. The curators for the museum had asked me for some materials on my parents, which would be included in the exhibit on the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They were also interested in the fact that my maternal grandmother Nina Hortense Clinton had sung with Frederick Loudin's group of Jubilee Singers from 1900 to 1903. 

Frederick Loudin had sung with the original Fisk Jubilee Singers of 1872. But after he was no longer affiliated with the school, he formed his own group of singers and traveled with them across the globe. The museum curators were especially interested in the letters my grandmother had written to her parents in Ohio while travelling with the group in Great Britain, in which she described the mourning period following the death of Queen Victoria, and the coronation …

The 21st Annual Reel Sisters International Film Festival

For The Noshing with Nina Show’s January episode, we presented our coverage of the 21st annual Reel Sisters International Film Festival. In Red Carpet interviews, African Voices founder Carolyn Butts discussed the founding of the festival, and its new status as an Oscar-qualifying festival. 

Also, producer Janelle Stein introduced her film Ashley's World The Series, which explores the difficulties faced by young actresses of color.

J.T. Takagi, Executive Director of Third World Newsreel, received the Trailblazer Award during the festival and honored us with a Red Carpet interview.

Filmmaker Valerie Woods moderated a discussion with former Black Panther Ericka Huggins, who is writing her autobiography, and will be the subject of Woods' next project. An excerpt from In Conversation with Ericka Huggins: Our Stories. Our Medicine was screened, and Ms. Woods shared with us the news of her recent engagement as director of an episode of Ava DuVernay's Queen Sugar.

Producer Elizabeth …

A Battle Cry: The Enemy is Defeated!

As some of you know, I have recently fought (and am still fighting) the battle of my life. Last fall I was told that there was an abnormal result of my regular mammogram. I was called in for a biopsy, and the result was bad news. The calcifications in my breast, which had been there for years, were suddenly malignant. I had to have surgery immediately.
      This was such a trigger for me, to say the least. My first partner, Susan Seltzer, had died from breast cancer at thirty-three years old. I had gone through every step of her diagnosis with her - the initial surgery, the removal of lymph nodes (which were already positive), the radiation treatments, chemotherapy, hair-loss, nausea, and the ultimate heartbreak of holding her hand while she took her last breath. I didn't think I would survive it I ever received a cancer diagnosis. Well, not only have I survived it. I am thriving!
      My doctor told me that thirty years ago, it would not have been possible t…

"African American Entertainers in Australia and New Zealand" by Bill Egan

I was so gratified to see the photograph of African American pianist Leota Henson in the new book by historian Bill Egan titled African American Entertainers in Australia and New Zealand: A History, 1788-1941. Bill Egan saw my blog on Leota Henson last year, and asked for my permission to use the photograph. The reason I had that photograph was because Leota and my grandmother Nina Clinton were dear friends. They had traveled together as part of Frederick Loudin's "Fisk Jubilee Singers," who had traveled and performed in Australia and New Zealand in the 1880s. As some you have read, I opened a box of papers and photos that belonged to my grandmother, and found the autographed portrait of Miss Henson, along with seven typed pages titled "A Few Notes on the Life of Leota Henson." I immediately posted the writings online, along with the photograph.

Bill Egan informed me that he was including a section of his new book on Frederick Loudin's Jubilee Singers. I kne…

The James Baldwin Conference in Saint-Paul de Vence

Nina Kennedy, creative director of INFEMNITY Productions, has been invited to participate as a presenter for the International James Baldwin Conference, celebrating the 50th anniversary of James Baldwin's arrival in the South of France, June 18-21, 2020. Kennedy will moderate a panel on "Baldwin and The Internalized Closet" with panelists J.P. Howard, Dr. Jordanna Matlon, and composer Renée Baker

Dr. Cornel West will be the Closing Keynote speaker. 

INFEMNITY Productions will be on hand to film the event.

Nina Kennedy is a world-renowned concert pianist, orchestral conductor, and award-winning filmmaker. She gave her first complete piano recital at nine years old, and appeared as piano soloist with the Nashville Symphony playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at age 13. She holds a master’s degree from the Juilliard School where she studied with Leonard Bernstein. Kurt Masur acted as her conducting mentor during his tenure as music director with the New York Philharmonic and…

The 2019 Paul Weiss Diversity Networking Reception

We were delighted to be invited again to the annual Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison Diversity Networking Reception in The Appel Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall. This year's speaker was Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson gave a moving speech on the importance of reaching out to those in the Black community who are less fortunate, to offer role-modeling and guidance. "Some of us were told to stay away from those neighborhoods," he said, "But I say that these are the very neighborhoods we should go into."

Again we were able to chat with the former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who is the first African American partner at Paul Weiss. Johnson's grandfather had been the first African American president of Fisk University. Dr. Charles S. Johnson greatly admired my mother, and welcomed her to the Fisk Faculty. He later commissioned c…

Cole Knapper Speaks at Al Sharpton's National Action Network Rally

Congratulations to Cole Knapper, who was invited to speak at the Saturday Morning Rally for the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network on June 1st. Watch the video below.


April Gibson (of April and Nina's Salon and producer of The Noshing with Nina Show) said her final goodbye to her father Ronald Gibson, Sr. who departed this earth on May 9, 2019. His funeral service was held in April's hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"Ronald Gibson, Sr. was born in Tallulah, Louisiana to Dollie Mae Lee and adopted by Joseph D. Gibson (Joe). He attended Holy Rosary School, Louisiana State University, and took a position at the U.S. Postal Service where he was employed for 37 years.

Ronald married Sherry Ann Corbin on August 21, 1970. They are the proud parents of two sons, Ronald Keith Gibson, Jr. (Chandra), Robert DeMond Gibson, and a daughter, April Charrissa Gibson. He is also survived by 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, two sisters, an uncle, and a host of nieces, nephews, and other relatives and friends."
Nina Kennedy participated in the program by performing the processional music on the piano (Dedication by Robert Schumann), and p…