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Poet Giovanni Urges Students to “Use Your Voice”


In a mixture of lighthearted personal anecdotes and thought-provoking comments on today’s society, acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni spoke about the importance of racial pride and civil rights activism during her public reading in the Chapel on March 6.

Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tenn., and her work first gained popularity in the late 1960s. Many of her pieces were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement. With poems, essays and children’s books focusing on social issues such as race and gender, she has been highly recognized as a prominent black female voice in literature.

Giovanni began the reading by relaying her experiences as a black woman living in the south, specifically reminiscing on her conversations with civil rights activist Rosa Parks. She then read a poem with a title of the same name, emphasizing the importance of tolerance and fighting for racial equality.

“I am incredibly tired of people acting like black people only sell drugs or do evil,” remarked Giovanni. “One thing right about black women, is that no matter what it is, we have birthed it, we have named it and we have loved it, and if the world could learn what black women have loved about love, we would have a better world.”

When addressing the political climate of the country and the negative assumptions surrounding certain races and religions, Giovanni reminded the audience, “We have to quit letting people make us feel afraid. We have to take the next step where we love and embrace, and we cannot let anyone convince us that we are afraid of anyone else.”

With moments of fond laughter and inspired applause from the audience, Giovanni’s reading was genuine, relevant and enriching. She challenged discriminatory views and encouraged students to use their voice, as writers, recognizing the importance of every individual and set of experiences.

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