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Giovanni speaks about racism, segregation
By Shereka Blue
Nikki Giovanni, writer, poet and educator extraordinaire, visited UNCP Feb. 15 as part of the 2007 distinguished speaker series and in observance of Black History month. Her performance in the Givens Performing Arts Center was attended by nearly 500 people.
“I’m so hip even my errors are correct,” Crawley quoted from Giovanni’s poem, “Ego Tripping” to further describe Giovanni.
Giovanni started off by informing the crowd that she was the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Achievement Award. Giovanni was also honored at Oprah’s legend ball as one of the 25 legends that have pioneered and advanced African American women.
Giovanni intertwined humor, history and passion together with a touch of sarcasm and boldness to convey her views on various topics ranging from segregation to entertainment.
Giovanni then went on to inform the audience about her children’s book entitled, “Rosa” and on the history of Rosa Parks.
“We thank God that Rosa Parks was not a woman of her time, but a woman of the future,” she said.
According to Giovanni, being a friend of Rosa Parks is like being a friend of Queen Elizabeth.
“One thing I wanted to show in my book is that Rosa got along with people,” she said.
Giovanni explained the process of writing books by illustrating how the children’s book, “Rosa,” came about.
Giovanni told the audience that she argued with her editor about leaving the story of Emmett Till in the book.
“If you want it to be Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni, then the story of Emmett Till stays. Emmett is important,” Giovanni said.
According to Giovanni, Till was a 14-year-old boy that went into a store to buy bubble gum and whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a white girl, on the way out the door.
Till was brutally beaten and killed, then dumped into Mississippi's Tallahatchie River, for whistling at Carolyn Bryant.
“During segregation you went to the store and stood at the door until all of the white folks were waited on, and then you showed your money to get waited on. If you didn’t show your money you were not waited on,” said Giovanni.
“People can do terrible things to you and then say you are wrong for saying anything about it,” she said.
Giovanni then began talking about the death of her mother.
“When your mother dies your clock resets,” she said. “Anyone whose mother is still living is truly blessed.”
During a question and answer session, Giovanni also commented on the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s so sad that we can send 20,000 people to Iraq, to possibly get killed, and we have no one to send to aid Hurricane Katrina victims. It’s disgraceful,” Giovanni said. “The United States can do better than that; we can do better than that.”
Giovanni also noted that other places, such as Amsterdam, were built under sea level so New Orleans wasn’t the first city to do such a thing.
Giovanni encouraged up and coming writers to be sharp listeners and pay attention.
“Read and watch the weather channel, watch how the wind carries things, this should peak your imagination,” she said.