A day with Nikki Giovanni

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Sep 302004
 
Authors: Krystle Clayton

The Diversity Summit ended with a visit from nationally

recognized poet, teacher and social activist Nikki Giovanni.

Giovanni was involved in a number of activities Thursday,

including a poetry workshop and a brown bag luncheon that included

an open dialogue with students.

Throughout the day Giovanni emphasized several points, one of

the most important to her was the education of the current

generation as well as the younger generation.

“Children of today are more sophisticated then they were when I

was a child,” Giovanni said. “They don’t need to be talked to like

idiots, they need to be respected.”

Giovanni underscored that in order to be adequately educated

people need to be integrated.

She also spoke of various social issues, including criticisms of

the government, prisons, the education system and humans as a

species in general.

While overtly blunt at times, the audience respected her views

with several rounds of applause and even laughter.

“Seeing her helped me realize that the black experience comes

from different backgrounds,” said Rich Hamilton, a senior English

major. “She pulled out all the stops, and her language was harsh

sometimes, but I don’t think she was trying to create a superior or

inferior construct (about race).”

Her views and opinions were also expressed through her work, as

seen when she read one of her poems called “We’re Going to Mars”,

which drew strong comparisons to slavery as related to going to a

new world and not being fully prepared.

Giovanni voiced her support for social change throughout the

day, and she said that there is something wrong with the world that

we live in where we can’t help each other. She also continued to

drive home that the days of second-class citizenship are over, as

related to ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations and how the

different groups are treated.

Her work and legacy are appreciated by several people on campus

and she is very inspirational to some.

“My mom started reading her poetry since I was seven years old,”

said Jaime Wood, a graduate student studying English. “Everything

about my poetic identity stems from (Giovanni). I feel fortunate

and completely excited to be able to talk to her.”

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