Standing on stage wearing red pants and a blue button down shirt, American poet, educator, and activist, Nikki Giovanni shared some of her amazing stories and words of empowerment at Savannah State University on January 30, 2014.
An Evening with Dr. Nikki Giovanni
Starting her speech off with a humorous story about her grandparents, Nikki Giovanni informed the audience to all sit down and talk with the members of their families about the things they have been through in life. She says, “If you don’t know where you come from you don’t know where your going”.
Nikki Giovanni is a confident Black American female, who is, I would like to say nonchalant. She showed that she is a nonchalant female, by giving a brief summary of her life, therefore making her audience feel comfortable with her. “Language means so much to the definition of who we are”, says Nikki Giovanni; and as she spoke to her audience everyone laughed at her jokes and was engaged with what she was speaking about. I could almost bet, that no one was disappointed with an evening with Dr. Nikki Giovanni.
Last night I was honored to be in the presence of one of my most favorite poets, Nikki Giovanni.
I imagined Dr. Giovanni to be a woman who held herself up to higher standards than most and would have this long written out speech, being that she is called, the world’s greatest treasure. I guess you can say I stereotyped her because she was just as down to earth as the next individual sitting next to me. As Dr. Giovanni spoke, she grasped my attention because of her understanding of my generation. I know most people can go on about her poems and what she stands for as a poet but my appreciation for her is the way she uses her wisdom to try to help my generation. She wasn’t trying to tell us how much she knows more than we do, nor was she trying to tell us in what direction to go. She simply gave us her knowledge by implanting it in her passion, WRITING.
Dr. Giovanni motivation with seeing the world made me realize that my history isn’t just in the books that someone wrote for me, but my history is within the world that is itching for me to come discover it. She entertained me and held me captive within her message because she didn’t care what anyone in that room had to say about her. This was her, and if you didn’t like what was said you had the option of excusing yourself from the program.
I believe that if I left with any message from last night that I believe could help me with pursuing my dreams, it would be when she told a young lady to never care about what others say or think about your passion. It’s your passion for a reason and if you continued to care about what others think you would soon become insane.
Savannah State University Quality Enhancement Plan “The Write Attitude” gave students and faculty the opportunity to attend an event on Thursday, January 30th, in the Student Union Ballroom to meet and greet with a phenomenal woman, Dr. Nikki Giovanni. To be completely honest, I did not know who this little old woman was and how much she has accomplished in life. After listening to her stories, tips/advice, and recite some poems, I was highly motivated to do better with my life that will help me become successful. Nikki Giovanni talked about how you need to please yourself instead of trying to please others and how you need to know where you come from in order to stay sane. She also talked about how she turned a disadvantage (her being sick as a child) into an advantage by writing. It allowed her to express herself without anyone judging her.
When I first saw Nikki Giovanni, I assumed that she was just a sweet, little old lady who was going to tell everyone about her boring life story, answer a few questions, and give advice to the students and faculty. I was wrong. She was really funny, interesting, and a realist. Not to mention, she was very blunt. Ms. Giovanni didn’t sugarcoat anything. Another stereotype was about the Black sororities and how AKAs are classified as the CEOs, Deltas are more involved with public service, and that Zetas are the small business owners. I never looked at sororities that way.
She discussed during the program that everyone should get a diary every year and just write down your thoughts because it would help people stay sane. She also stated that everyone needed to get a passport and travel to see different parts of the world, especially Africa.
She has a great and powerful personality. When Nikki Giovanni enters the room, she gets everyone’s full undivided attention because she is well-known and highly respected. Her presence is just amazing and I felt honored to be there. Meeting Nikki Giovanni was a life changing experience.
The perfect description of Dr. Nikki Giovanni is a woman who can silence a room. From the first moment she set foot at the podium, she had everyone’s attention. What was so intriguing to me was that she reminded me of both of my grandmothers. One is sweet and nurturing and the other is straight-forward and frankly, foul-mouthed. These are comical, yet desirable attributes and they make Dr. Giovanni someone to be envied.
How many grandmas (or women in general) do you know that can use profane language to an audience of 80+ people and still be taken seriously? Not many. Her honesty and genuine personality was something that captured everyone in that room. Listening to her, there were many quotes that really caught my attention. Some of my favorites are:
“To be an African-American is to be aware of the language.”
“Life is about passing that love around.”
“You laugh at Black Americans at your own peril.”
“If you listen to people, you won’t do anything.”
Just to name a few.
She defies the social norm of people her demographic in many ways. She is not a quiet, old lady. She is not a Baby Boomer attempting to correct the behavior of the Millennials. Let’s not forget the fact that she is about the “thug life”. I love that she embraces people, and shared her experiences as well. Unfortunately for some questioners, she wasn’t offering up too much advice. That is admirable. It is important to emphasize everyone making their own way, and that was a major value that I took from her keynote.
On Thursday, at Savannah State University’s Union Ballroom, Ms. Nikki Giovanni made a very influential appearance at our beloved University. During her appearance, she gave tips, told stories, gave advice and even recited a few of her poems. Her silly personality filled up the room and allowed the student body and community to get to know her on a more personal level. Ms. Nikki, who is now a creative writing professor at Virginia Tech shared several keynotes regarding to writing and inspired future writers. I enjoyed her presence so much because she was full of humor and she was very blunt. She reminded me of myself when it comes to saying whatever is on my mind without trying to sugarcoat it.
She went into discussing how important it is to listen to your family stories. She gave the stereotype of how we think that elderly people stories are boring and how we never listen to them. She learned a lot from her family and that’s where she began writing. She stated how everyone in her household had a very special talent and how she discovered when writing was hers. Writing allowed her to express her feelings without people having to “read her”, she stated. During the time she began writing she was recovering from lung caner and her pen and paper allowed her to be free.
Her appearance was very “chill”. She wore a loose button down and relaxing slacks. I stereotyped Giovanni myself before she arrived because I thought that she wouldn’t be able to relate to our generation. That stereotype changed when she actually agreed with our way of life. She stated ” I may not listen to the hip hop, but I can relate to some of the lyrics”. She also inspired me to continue to strive for the best and to travel as well. It’s time to stop proving those harsh stereotypes right and make a difference. It’s time to enter the “thug life” , ” I am a thug” . Thank you Ms. Giovanni
Nikki Giovanni was a very youthful looking elderly lady. She had very short, light, curly hair and was very petite. She had a casual, almost basic look about her with a blue button down, bare and beautiful face, and glasses. It wasn’t this formal speech with tons of boring facts. It was this amazing, strong, proud women coming to share her life experiences with us. Her presence made me feel very comfortable and layed back, almost like talking to a friend.
She got very personal with us as she started talking about her grandparents and the struggles they went through being in Albany, Ga. Because of certain reasons her family eventually had to move to Knoxville, TN, where she was born. She was a very sick girl growing up, and mentioned that it created the opportunity for her to start writing.
She is very energetic, witty, funny, and strong. I really respected that fact that traveling is so important to her. I have a passport and strongly agree that everyone should have one as well. It creates so much opportunity to be able to travel. She mentioned that we live in an “international society” and I can’t agree more.
She mentioned that everyone should keep a diary for at least a year, to help people maintain sanity. It helps you think, helps you understand things. “You don’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you have been,” she says. I will never be able to completely understand what her, her family, and the African Americans of the past went through. Because I wasn’t there, I didn’t go through it, and I am also a white female. However, learning about it helps me respect it and know it. Without having people write about their past and what happened, we will never be able to read, learn and grow from it. This way, history has way less of a chance of repeating its self, and gives us a huge opportunity to live and work together as one. I respect her and her work. I feel very fortunate that I was able to go and hear her story.
Walking into hearing Nikki Giovanni I thought it’d be the typical speaking by a special guest. They gloss over their accolades, speak on how to improve our writing, take a few questions and pictures, then be on their way.
Boy was I in for a surprise.
From the minute Giovanni gathered herself to stroll onto the stage, you could tell that this night was different. It was unscripted, unfiltered and unadulterated, the three things that usually make for the best listen. Her way of speaking and relating to the crowd made it a bit hard for me to remember what I came there for: to listen and see what media stereotypes she would gloss over because of how great a person and poet she was.
As far as the stereotypes go, what stuck out to me most was how she addressed those who thought she needed to be prompted on meeting a high official i.e. George W. Bush or Queen Elizabeth. The quote she used to combat those folk was “I know Mrs. (Rosa) Parks so I know how to treat a queen.” One must wonder if it was typical procedure to prompt one before meeting someone of that stature or if, based on what they knew about Giovanni and other black women, she would act in an unpleasant manner, void of manners and respect.
The AKA/Delta/Zeta stereotypes were also prevalent (and funny).
I’d be lying if I said I knew who she was prior to last night. The only recollection I have of memory that mentions Dr. Giovanni is the Kanye West lyric “Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, turn one page and there’s my mommy”. But after last night, seeing the great spirit she is and how free she is in her speak, body language, etc. I’ll make a concerned effort to learn more about this prestigious woman. I’ll end this off with a quote she spoke that will stick with me for a long time as it pertains to what I’m struggling with as a writer at the moment.
“Don’t be afraid of your own thoughts.”