YOLANDE CORNELIA "NIKKI" GIOVANNI, JR. (born June 7, 1943) is an
American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. One of the
world's most well-known African-American poets, her work includes
poetry anthologies, poetry recordings, and nonfiction essays, and
covers topics ranging from race and social issues to children's
literature. She has won numerous awards, including the Langston Hughes
Medal , the
NAACP Image Award . She has been nominated for a Grammy
Award , for her album The
Giovanni gained initial fame in the late 1960s as one of the foremost authors of the Black Arts Movement . Influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement of the period, her early work provides a strong, militant African-American perspective, leading one writer to dub her the "Poet of the Black Revolution." During the 1970s, she began writing children's literature, and co-founded a publishing company, NikTom Ltd to provide an outlet for other African-American women writers. Over subsequent decades, her works discussed social issues, human relationships, and hip-hop. Poems such as "Knoxville, Tennessee," and "Nikki-Rosa" have been frequently re-published in anthologies and other collections.
Giovanni has taught at Queens College , Rutgers , and Ohio State ,
and is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech
. Following the
* 1 Life and work
* 2 Writing * 3 Awards
* 4 Works
* 4.1 Poetry collections * 4.2 Children\'s books * 4.3 Discography * 4.4 Other
* 5 References * 6 External links
LIFE AND WORK
Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni, Jr. was born in Knoxville, Tennessee , to Yolande Cornelia, Sr. and Jones "Gus" Giovanni. Soon after her birth, the family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where her parents worked at Glenview School. In 1948, the family moved to Wyoming, and sometime in those first three years, Giovanni’s sister, Gary, began calling her “Nikki.” In 1958, Giovanni moved to Knoxville, TN to live with her grandparents and attend Austin High School . In 1960, she began her studies at her grandfather's alma mater, Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee as an “Early Entrant” which meant that she could enroll in college without having finished high school first. She immediately clashed with the Dean of Women, Ann Cheatam, and was expelled after neglecting to obtain the required permission from the Dean to leave campus and travel home for Thanksgiving break. Giovanni moved back to Knoxville where she worked at a Walgreen’s Drug Store and helped care for her nephew, Christopher. In 1964, Giovanni spoke with the new Dean of Women at Fisk University, Blanche McConnell Cowan (“Jackie”), who urged Giovanni to return to Fisk that fall. While at Fisk, Giovanni edited a student literary journal (titled Èlan), reinstated the campus chapter of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), and published an essay in Negro Digest on gender questions in the Movement. In 1967, she graduated with honors with a B.A. in History.
Soon after graduation, she suffered the loss of her grandmother,
Louvenia Watson, and turned to writing to cope with her death. These
poems would later be included in her anthology, Black Feelings, Black
Talk. In 1968, Giovanni attended a semester at University of
Pennsylvania and then moved to New York City. She briefly attended
Since 1987, she has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech,
where she is a University Distinguished Professor. She has received
NAACP Image Award several times, received twenty honorary
doctorates and various other awards, including the
Rosa Parks and the
Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and
Letters. She also holds the key to several different cities,
Giovanni was diagnosed with lung cancer in the early 1990s, and underwent numerous surgeries. Her book Blues: For All the Changes: New Poems, published in 1999, contains poems about nature and her battle with cancer. In 2002, Giovanni spoke in front of NASA about the need for African Americans to pursue space travel and later published Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems which dealt with similar themes.
She has also been honored for her life and career by the History Makers along with being the first person to receive the Rosa L. Parks Women of Courage Award. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor from Dillard University in 2010. In 2015, Giovanni was named one of the Library of Virginia\'s "Virginia Women in History" for her contributions to poetry, education, and society.
VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTING
Seung-Hui Cho , the mass murderer who killed 32 people in the April
Giovanni was asked by
“ We know we did nothing to deserve it. But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS. Neither do the invisible children walking the night awake to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory. Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water....We are Virginia Tech.... We will prevail. ”
Her speech also sought to express the idea that really terrible things happen to good people: "I would call it, in terms of writing, in terms of poetry, it's a laundry list. Because all you're doing is: This is who we are, and this is what we think, and this is what we feel, and this is why - you know?... I just wanted to admit, you know, that we didn't deserve this, and nobody does. And so I wanted to link our tragedy, in every sense, you know - we're no different from anything else that has hurt...."
She thought that ending with a thrice-repeated "We will prevail" would be anticlimactic, and she wanted to connect back with the beginning, for balance. So, shortly before going onstage, she added a closing: "We are Virginia Tech." Her performance produced a sense of unity and received a fifty-four second standing ovation from the over-capacity audience in Cassell Coliseum, including then-President George W. Bush.
Civil Rights Movement
Giovanni is often interviewed regarding themes pertaining to her poetry such as gender and race. In an interview entitled "I am Black, Female, Polite", Peter Bailey questions her regarding the role of gender and race in the poetry she writes. The interview looks specifically at the critically acclaimed poem, "Nikki-Rosa", and questions whether it is reflective of her own childhood experiences as well as the experiences in her community. In the interview, Giovanni stresses that she did not like constantly reading the trope of the black family as a tragedy and that "Nikki-Rosa" demonstrates the experiences that she witnessed in her communities. Specifically the poem deals with black folk culture, and touches on such issues as alcoholism and domestic violence, and such issues as not having an indoor bathroom. (30)
Giovanni's poetry in the late 1960s and early 1970s addressed black womanhood and black manhood amongst other themes. In a book she co-wrote with James Baldwin entitled A Dialogue, the two authors speak blatantly about the status of the black male in the household. Baldwin challenges Giovanni's opinion on the representation of black women as the “breadwinners” in the household. Baldwin states, “A man is not a woman. And whether he’s wrong or right.... Look, if we’re living in the same house and you’re my wife or my woman, I have to be responsible for that house.". Conversely, Giovanni recognizes the black man’s strength, whether or not he is "responsible" for the home or economically advantaged. The interview makes it clear that regardless of who is "responsible" for the home, the black woman and black man should be dependent on one another. Such themes appeared throughout her early poetry which focused on race and gender dynamics in the black community.
Giovanni tours nationwide and frequently speaks out against hate-motivated violence. At a 1999 Martin Luther King Day event, she recalled the 1998 murders of James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard : "What's the difference between dragging a black man behind a truck in Jasper, Texas, and beating a white boy to death in Wyoming because he's gay?"
Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983) acknowledged black figures. Giovanni collected her essays in the 1988 volume Sacred Cows ... and Other Edibles. Her more recent works include Acolytes, a collection of 80 new poems, and On My Journey Now. Acolytes is her first published volume since her 2003 Collected Poems. The work is a celebration of love and recollection directed at friends and loved ones and it recalls memories of nature, theater, and the glories of children. However, Giovanni's fiery persona still remains a constant undercurrent in Acolytes, as some of the most serious verse links her own life struggles (being a black woman and a cancer survivor) to the wider frame of African-American history and the continual fight for equality.
Giovanni's collection Bicycles: Love Poems (2009) is a companion work
to her 1997 Love Poems. They touch on the deaths of both her mother
and her sister, as well as the massacre on the
In Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (2013), Giovanni describes falling off of a bike and her mother saying, "Come here, Nikki and I will pick you up." She has explained that it was comforting to hear her mother say this, and that "it took me the longest to realize – no, she made me get up myself." Chasing Utopia continues as a hybrid (poetry and prose) work about food as a metaphor and as a connection to the memory of her mother, sister, and grandmother. The theme of the work is love relationships.
In 2004, Giovanni was nominated for the
She was commissioned by National Public Radio's All Things Considered
to create an inaugural poem for President
* Keys to more than two dozen American cities, including New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and New Orleans
* State Historical markers in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Lincoln Heights, Ohio
* Seven NAACP Image Awards:
* Love Poems (1998) * Blues: For All the Changes (1999) * Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea (2003) * Acolytes (2008) * Hip Hop Speaks to Children (2009) * 100 Best African American Poems (2011) * Bicycles (2010)
* National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1968) * Harlem Cultural Council (1969) * Woman of the Year, Ebony Magazine (1970) * Woman of the Year, Mademoiselle Magazine (1971) * Woman of the Year, Ladies Home Journal (1972) * National Association of Radio and Television Announcers Award for Best Spoken Word Album, for Truth Is on Its Way (1972) * National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1968) * Harlem Cultural Council (1969) * National Association of Radio and Television Announcers Award for Best Spoken Word Album, for Truth Is on Its Way (1972) * National Association of Radio and Television Announcers Award for Best Spoken Word Album * National Book Award Nomination for Gemini (1973) * Life Membership & Scroll, The National Council of Negro Women (1973) * Woman of the Year, Cincinnati YWCA (1983) * The Ohio Women's Hall of Fame (1985) * Outstanding Woman of Tennessee (1985) * Duncanson Artist in Residence, The Taft Museum (1986) * The Post-Corbett Award (1986) * The Post-Corbett Award (1986) * The Children’s Reading Roundtable of Chicago Award for Vacation Time (1988) * The Ohioana Library Award for Sacred Cows (1988) * The Children’s Reading Roundtable of Chicago Award for Vacation Time (1988) * The Ohioana Library Award for Sacred Cows (1988) * The Cecil H. and Ida Green Honors Chair, Texas Christian University (1991) * The Hill Visiting Professor, University of Minnesota (1993) * Tennessee Writer's Award, The Nashville Banner (1994) * The Tennessee Governor's Award in the Humanities (1996) * The Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters (1996) * Parents' Choice Award for The Sun Is So Quiet (1996) * Artist-in-Residence. The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts (1996) * Contributor’s Arts Award, The Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing (1996) * Living Legacy Award, Juneteenth Festival of Columbus, Ohio (1998) * Distinguished Visiting Professor, Johnson -webkit-column-count: 2; column-count: 2;">
* Black Feeling, Black
* Spin a Soft Black Song (1971) * Ego-Tripping and Other Poems For Young People (1973) * Vacation Time: Poems for Children (1980)
* Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People Revised Edition (1993)
* The Genie in The Jar (1996)
* The Sun Is So Quiet (1996) * The Girls in the Circle (Just for You!) (2004) * Rosa* (2005) * Poetry Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (2005) ( Sourcebooks ) * Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship (2008) * Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (2008) ( Sourcebooks ) * The Grasshopper's Song: An Aesop's Fable (2008) * I Am Loved (2018)
* Truth Is On Its Way (Right On Records , 1976)
* The Reason I Like Chocolate (
Folkways Records , 1976)
* Legacies: The Poetry of
* (Editor) Night Comes Softly: An Anthology of Black Female Voices,
Medic Press (1970)
* Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First
Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet* (1971)
* A Dialogue with James Baldwin* (1973)
* (With Margaret Walker) A Poetic Equation: Conversations between
* ^ "Nikki Giovanni", Biography.com.
* ^ A B C D Jane M. Barstow, Yolanda Williams Page (eds), "Nikki
Giovanni", Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers (Greenwood
Publishing Group, 2007), p. 213.
* ^ A B Margaret D. Binnicker, "Yolande Cornelia \'Nikki\'
Giovanni", Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved
October 17, 2014.
* ^ A B C Poetry Foundation Center