GREAT GRIEF

WITH NNENNA FREELON

A podcast about loving greatly through grief.

Subscribe and listen to all eight episodes of the first two season of Great Grief with Nnenna Freelon wherever you listen to podcasts.

From the mind and lived experience of celebrated jazz artist Nnenna Freelon, Great Grief is a life-honoring outpouring of word, story, and song that plumbs the depths of her own sorrow after the death of her beloved husband, Philip and her sister, Debbie Irene.

The award-winning podcast Great Grief re-emerges this summer at Scalawag as a dynamic space through podcasts and live events for Black women to indulge our griefs, savor our loves, and mourn in community. Each four-episode season is organized around topics that intertwine our grief experiences, topics like sisterhood, the inevitability of change, and Black love.

A new season drops every quarter, accompanied by a live opportunity for us to gather around our griefs in different cities across the South. Find community at the next Great Grief: Live! event, by joining the Great Grief Facebook group, and reading more stories from Scalawag's ongoing commitment with grief.

SEASON 2: SEASONS OF CHANGE

In the latest series of Great Grief, Nnenna looks to nature and the cyclical movement of time to delve deeper into loss, creating rituals and making discoveries that help us reconnect with ourselves, each other, and the ones we've lost. For many people, holidays are a time of celebration marked by family, faith, and food. This time of year can also be a period of remembrance. Yes, grief has a seat at the table. But grieving in the holiday season doesn't have to be a solo or solemn affair.

LATEST EPISODE

Falling

The changing seasons are an apt metaphor to talk about the shedding, withering, and falling away that accompanies the most painful parts of grief. Nnenna Freelon takes us on a walk through the woods to contemplate autumn and the possibility of renewal.

Read the full episode transcript.

SEASON 1: WAILING WOMEN

In the first four-episode first season, "Wailing Women," Nnenna Freelon uses music and story to focus on the intimate beauty and irreparable sorrow we know as Black women, with episodes touching on the shock of widowhood, the bittersweet of sisterhood, and the love-hate journeys many of us have with our hair. As we give voice to the wailing women within, we find more than tears. We also find new songs. 

Black Widow

A wife for nearly 40 years, Nnenna Freelon now wonders what to make of the term widow when she still feels the significance of her marriage well after her husband's death in Black Widow, the final installment in the season of Great Grief, Wailing Women.

Read the full episode transcript.

Hairstory

Hair holds our history, personality, identity—and our grief. In episode 3 of Great Grief, Nnenna Freelon visits her mother's beauty salon, where generations of Black women have gathered to discuss their hair—the grief over it, and the grief under it.

Read the full episode transcript.

Sister Sister

No woman makes it through life without a sister. Through faith, family, and struggle, we inhabit a deep solidarity that allows us to hold one another close, even at the very end. Nnenna Freelon walks us through her journey of losing her sister, Debbie.

Read the full episode transcript.

When Grief Speaks

Grief is a woman with plenty to say. In the first episode of Great Grief, Nnenna Freelon asks us to consider what happens if we stop running from our grief, sit down, and listen to her for a change. Listen and read along with the podcast transcript.

Read the full episode transcript.
IN CONVERSATION:

More press for Great Grief:

Nnenna and Pierce Freelon's individual albums were inspired by a common thread: family grief. The first mother and son to be individually nominated in different categories in the same year call their double Grammy nods a "beautiful coincidence."

— TODAY

"When [Freelon] started putting the podcast together last winter—with the help of an all-Black women team—she realized that of the podcasts that deal with loss, Black women's voices weren't present enough."

— Essence

"Neither the spectre of annihilation that threatened to consume Freelon after her husband's death, nor the gentrification of Durham, nor the ongoing death-dealing effects of the Middle Passage, will keep her from singing these new changes."

— Scalawag

Nnenna Freelon (host/creator) is a Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist, music educator, arts advocate, producer and arranger who has achieved international acclaim in both recording and live performance. Follow her latest updates at: nnenna.com

Andrew Berinson (musical accompanist) is a pianist, composer and educator born and based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Andrew's debut album as a leader, Of Love, was released in April 2019. He performs with his own trio (THRIO) and as a musical accompanist on various projects.

Great Grief is produced for Scalawag by OnlyUs Media, with the support of Arts & Soul Editor-at-Large Alysia Nicole Harris, and Executive Director Cierra Hinton. From the heart of Downtown Durham, OnlyUs is a media company that seeks to shake up the music industry and what it means to build a legacy by producing revolutionary media, events, and workshops that bring power to the artist. Great Grief was originally produced by Lindsay Foster Thomas, Stacia Brown, and Sean Roux for WUNC 91.5, North Carolina Public Radio.