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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Spotlight on Nikki Giovanni

Yolanda Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on June 7, 1943, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1960, she entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she worked with the school's Writer's Workshop and edited the literary magazine. After receiving her bachelor of arts degree in 1967, she organized the Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati before entering graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.
In her first two collections, Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968) and Black Judgement(1969), Giovanni reflects on the African-American identity. Recently, she has published Acolytes (HarperCollins, 2007), The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998 (2003), Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not-Quite Poems (2002) Blues For All the Changes: New Poems(1999), Love Poems (1997), and Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni(1996).
A lung cancer survivor, Giovanni has also contributed an introduction to the anthology Breaking the Silence: Inspirational Stories of Black Cancer Survivors (Hilton Publishing, 2005).
Her honors include three NAACP Image Awards for Literature in 1998, the Langston Hughes award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters in 1996, as well as more than twenty honorary degrees from national colleges and universities. She has been given keys to more than a dozen cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, and New Orleans.
Several magazines have named Giovanni Woman of the Year, includingEssenceMademoiselleEbony, and Ladies Home Journal. She was the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award. She has served as poetry judge for the National Book Awards and was a finalist for a Grammy Award in the category of Spoken Word.
She is currently Professor of English and Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 1987.


Childhood rememberances are 
always a drag if you're Black 
you always remember things like 
living in Woodlawn with no inside toilet 
and if you become famous or something

They never talk about how happy 
you were to have your mother 
all to yourself and how good the 
water felt when you got your bath 
from one of those

Big tubs that folk in chicago barbeque 
in and somehow when you talk 
about home 
it never gets across how much you 
understood their feelings as the 
whole family attended meetings

About Hollydale and even though you 
remember your biographers never 
understand your father's pain as he 
sells his stock and another 
dream goes

And though your're poor it isn't 
poverty that concerns you and 
though they fought a lot 
it isn't your father's drinking that 
makes any difference but only that

Everybody is together and you 
and your sister have happy birthdays 
and very good Christmasses and I 
really hope no white person ever has 
cause to write about me 
because they never understand

Black love is Black wealth and they'll 
probably talk about my hard childhood 
and never understand that 
all the while I was quite happy 

Written by Nikki Giovanni


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