The iconic and widely celebrated poet, Nikki Giovanni, is remembered as one of the most popular voices of the Black Arts Movement. Now she will be sharing her poetry and wisdom at several universities’ Black History Month celebrations with hopes to continue encouraging and inspiring the young Black voices of a new generation.
As an author, poet, teacher and activist, Giovanni has touched the lives of many with the magic she spreads across the page.
Throughout her career, she has boldly taken on a variety of different subjects, but some of her most notable works provide honest depictions of slavery and emotional reactions to the deaths of prominent Black leaders.
Her poetic responses to the deaths of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were some of her earliest published works along with another poem that expressed her reaction to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.
These works were a part of what launched Giovanni into the public eye and caused one writer to deem her the “Poet of the Black Revolution.”
She also touched a new generation with her poem to honor rapper Tupac Shakur after his death, called “All Eyez on U.” Giovanni had a friendship with Tupac and has the words “Thug Life” tattooed on her left forearm in his honor.
Giovanni is known for poems that had extremely personal, inward perspectives that also served to bring more general issues to the public’s attention.
Many of her works focus on her own life and personal circumstances as a young girl growing up in a poor family in Ohio, but her tales were ones that many Black people could relate to.
When Giovanni wasn’t intertwining her musical verses with powerful messages and emotional commentary, she was teaching at esteemed universities including Rutgers and Virginia Tech.
She also became a sort of iconic mother figure to aspiring Black artists and began taking many artistic hopefuls under her wing.
Her impressive, influential and historic body of work has earned her seven NAACP Image Awards, the Langston Hughes Medal for Poetry and the first Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award.
Just a brief look at Giovanni’s influence explains why so many universities and institutions are excited to welcome the groundbreaking artist to their campuses for their own Black History Month celebrations.
On Feb. 6 she will make her way to the University of South Carolina to share some of her poetry and help the student body celebrate the late Maya Angelou as a part of the Operatunity Foundation for the Arts’ “And Still I Rise: A Celebration of African American Arts.”
Giovanni is also scheduled to be the keynote speaker for the Black History Month celebrations taking over Binghamton University’s campus.
The series of events was organized and partially funded by the Black Student Union, which also managed to book iconic director Spike Lee as another keynote speaker.
Meanwhile, Southern Illinois University is taking a more personalized approach to its Black History Month celebrations.
The university is focusing on giving its own Black students the platform they need to share their own poetry, speeches and other creative works and learn the value of making their voices heard.
Some students, who have already shared their creative works during the school’s Black History Month kick-off event, said this movement is particularly important in the midst of the recent deaths of unarmed Black citizens by police officers.
Giovanni has been a very vocal advocate of encouraging budding artists to find their own voices, so it’s not a surprise that she is in full support of the university’s movement.
On Feb. 19, she will make her way to the university to share some of her own poems with the students and meet some of the students who are aspiring to become influential voices of their own generation.
It’s an opportunity they may have never had without pioneering Black voices like Giovanni herself.