Giovanni speaks of role, work of others

On March 21, the UNCG chapter of the NAACP sponsored a women’s history lecture with highly recognized poet Yolande Cornelia Giovanni a.k.a. Nikki Giovanni.Giovanni is a poet, activist and a professor at Virginia Tech, and has a new book coming out on March 22. She talked about that new book, going into detail about the poem she wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr. Giovanni said that she wrote the poem as if Martin were still alive and if he were living in 2002. She said that Martin was adventurous and would probably have vote or freedom tattooed on his arm and cornrows. Giovanni said that her tattoo would say Thug Life.Giovanni spoke to the crowd about not getting paid for the job you excel in.”Sometimes you just think that you want to have a purpose in life and I want to mean something,” she said. “Then there are other times when you just say naw, I just want to be rich.” The crowd was filled with laughterGiovanni spoke on her role as an activist. “To advocate for women’s rights and Black Americans or anybody for people in need is the right thing to do,” said Giovanni. “Hopefully, maybe I have helped people to look at issues differently. Maybe I have brought something to somebody’s attention. When I was younger we sat-in and I was a part of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Now, I teach at the university and we touched the students in another sort of way.” Giovanni spoke on her transition from being a poet to being a professor at Virginia Tech.”This was my first real job. I didn’t actually have a real job until I accepted a position at Virginia Tech,” she said. “Twenty years ago there were no black professors. It’s not like bang, bang I want to teach you. It’s more like, I want to take Nikki’s class. I have been there for 15 years and it’s been very exciting.” Giovanni is going to be honored with the first Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award, and said that she is thrilled about it.Giovanni also spoke on changing the world and self-empowerment. “We are making an evolutionary change. You have to know what you’re doing and whom you are doing it with. I don’t think it’s our job to tell you what to do. I think it’s our job as a generation, we did what we had to do. We get ragged on a lot and the political right is still very angry. We lost the battle of race and we lost the battle of gender,” said Giovanni.Giovanni says her inspiration in writing is storytelling. “The American experience is a storytelling experience. It is my east Tennessee roots that really inspired me.”She shared her views on Tupac Shakur by saying that he was really special to her generation because of his mother Afeni Shakur who was a Black Panther and his godfather Geronimo Pratt. Giovanni made reference to some of the known rap artists today. She mentioned that she was a big fan of Q-tip, Outkast and thought that Ja Rule was “a cute kid.”

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