Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni Part 13 of 15 Black Authors
A Poem for Langston Hughes by Nikki Giovanni
Diamonds are mined…oil is discovered
Gold is found…but thoughts are uncovered
Wool is sheared… silk is spun
Weaving is hard…but words are fun
Highways span…bridges connect
Country roads ramble…but I suspect
If I took a rainbow ride
I could be there by your side.
Nikki Giovanni, born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni Jr. on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee, I probably the best poet in the world–as I read her love poems, I hear jazz playing in the background. I see dandelions moving with the wind against the blue of the sky. When I hear her speak her truth of the love and passion that she has for poetry and those who have come before her, it is like a mural being painted with every word. How lucky we are to have her.
Dr. Giovanni has been decorated with many different honorary degrees and prestigious awards and spoken at many events. What we know about Dr. Giovanni is that she has no filter. Why should she need one? In listening to her being interviewed and her speaking and opinions on life, I find her intriguing. From her belief in life on Mars to the “D” grade that she said she would give President Obama during his first term in office. Dr. Giovanni has been open about her love of hip hop, going so far as to get a “thug life” tattoo on her forearm. Dr. Giovanni believed that Tupac was beautiful and wanted to remember him in all of his beauty, so the tattoo pays homage to him.
If you ask her if she is Black or African American, she will tell you that she is a Black American. She shares a birthday with another featured author, Gwendolyn Brooks, with whom she was good friends. Dr. Giovanni is a distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech and had Seung-Hui Cho in her class and requested that he be removed, or she was going to resign. She remembers the shooter as being pure evil. He was ultimately removed from her class but would massacre 32 people in his shooting spree.
Dr. Giovanni has interviewed James Baldwin and Margaret Walker and has shared them with the world in print. If you asked her who her favorite writer was, she would tell you that right now, she is very fond of Edwidge Danticat and her novel, “The Dew Breaker.” Dr. Giovanni says that there is Danticat and then all of the other newer writers, so she is fond of Danticat’s work.
Dr. Giovanni has experienced her share of loss. Having lost her mother, sister, and aunt all within a year of each other. When touring for Chasing Utopia, she tells how she came upon the name for the book. Her mother drank a beer a day all of her adult life, and so Nikki wanted to drink a beer a day, but not just any beer; she wanted the best beer, so she sought after it. Utopia beer is brewed by Samuel Adams and is one of the rarest and hardest beers to acquire. The $350 per pint beer is special order only, and Dr. Giovanni chased it for many months until she finally had the opportunity to experience Utopia for herself.
I don’t have to tell you that Dr. Nikki Giovanni is indeed a phenomenal woman, but I will. Dr. Giovanni has given us parts of herself through her written work, many lectures, and interviews. Dr. Giovanni is a firm believer that people who do not love and respect you have no business helping you determine who you are, so don’t let them. Dr. Giovanni tells the story about how the white men wanted to bury Emmet Till’s body in Mississippi in a ditch and not let anyone see what they had done to this young man. Thurgood Marshall helped to get Emmet Till’s body home to his mother through his connection with the Pullman Porter’s. She tells the story of how the Pullman porters would help collect money from willing donators, and whenever Thurgood Marshall needed money to support a cause, he would ride the trains to collect the money for the NAACP. This was how things had to be done to keep people safe and to establish one of the largest Civil Rights organizations in the world.
Dr. Giovanni would tell you not to squander your money but rather invest in a passport and see the world. The world cannot come to you, so you must go to it.
Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack?
In the concrete
Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned 2 walk.
Without having feet
Funny it seems but by keeping its dreams
It learned 2 breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
When no one else even cared!—Tupac Shakur
Shakur, Tupac. The Rose That Grew from Concrete. New York: Pocket, 1999. Print. The Rose That Grew from Concrete
Giovanni, Nikki. Love Poems. New York: Morrow, 1997. Print. A Poem for Langston Hughes
The Indianapolis Public Library, prod. “Lecture by Poet Nikki Giovanni.” Lecture by Poet Nikki Giovanni. YouTube. 3 Dec. 2015. Television.