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The Story Behind the Nina Simone-Kamala Harris Dust-up

Fame, money, family, and race all play a role in the tawdry tale of the Nina Simone estate.

The granddaughter of the famed “high priestess of soul” Nina Simone is accusing Kamala Harris of “taking away” the family fortune and handing it over to “white people.” RéAnna Simone Kelly also claims her family name “was dragged in the media,” leaving her so destitute she’s thinking of “stripping to pay” her bills. It was quite an onslaught of fiery accusations made against a sitting vice president of the United States. It is, no doubt, a saucy story.

The Back Story

RéAnna continued her rant against Harris with, “Ask her why she bullied my mother in court and my mom almost killed herself from the depression.” This comes on the heels of Harris strutting a mean girl attitude with Lester Holt of NBC and another reporter from Univision. The two tried questioning the vice president about avoiding a trip to the southern border where people are illegally crossing into U.S. territory in droves. Let’s just say that Harris has been having a bit of a rough go of it. Could it be that RéAnna Kelly felt this was an opportune time to pile on with the tawdry tale of the Simone estate?

In the category “the apple never falls far from the tree,” RéAnna’s blistering attack in many ways mirrors her grandmother’s passion. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Nina Simone was an intense civil rights activist recording such hits as “Mississippi Goddam” on the album Old Jim Crow. Friends with Malcolm X, Simone was also an outspoken supporter of black nationalism who eschewed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non-violent approach to civil rights during the tumultuous 1960s.

In a Twitter post, her granddaughter accused Harris of racism in dealing with her family’s estate, saying, “It breaks my heart to know that white people are making money off of grandmas hard work and that we have had all of our rights as her family STRIPPED from us!!”

[bookpromo align=”left”] The estate of Nina Simone came before Harris in 2013 when she was the attorney general for California. That was when Simone’s daughter Lisa Kelly was accused of breaching her fiduciary responsibility as the administrator of a charitable trust and absconding with somewhere between $1.5 million and $2 million. The singer had set up the trust as a charity to fund music education for children in Africa.

Estate law is quite strict for the obvious reason that the deceased has spoken and is unable to fulfill his or her wishes. Harris supervised the case against Simone’s daughter, which did not end well for the family. The settlement stripped Lisa of her title as administrator, forced her to give up any rights to her mother’s music, and placed a gag order on her regarding her mother’s legacy. It was a full-throated repudiation of her role as the point person handling Simone’s estate.

Posting a video on Instagram, Lisa Kelly intoned support for her daughter RéAnna which said in part:

“Today my daughter came out blazing on Twitter. She made some comments that have started … well, started a fire. Such is the Nina Simone legacy. I support her 1,000 percent. I support everything she’s saying. She’s speaking her truth. She’s speaking the truth of our family.”

Just to add insult to injury, RéAnna ended her missive about Vice President Kamala Harris with this:

“OH WAIT, While we’re asking Kamala questions ask her why after all of this pain and suffering she put us through a Nina Simone song was sang at the inauguration to swear her in as VP?!”

Thus far, Harris has yet to respond to the charges made against her. Still, if the thread on RéAnna Kelly’s Twitter – which has since been deleted – is any indication, Harris may be facing a not-so-pleasant rebuke from the court of public opinion.


Read more from Leesa K. Donner.

Read More From Leesa K. Donner

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