Accomplished Giovanni passionate about thoughts

By Staff Writer
February 22, 2001

by Stephanie Masucci
managing editor

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me is not true.”

The audience leaned forward digesting every word that acclaimed author, musician and poet Nikki Giovanni uttered. She began talking about the things that people remember about high school. Giovanni thinks that high school is one of life’s bad ideas. Adults do not remember being thrown into lockers or having the dodge ball thrown at them too hard. They remember the words that teachers and students said to them.

“You’ll never be a writer. You will never be anything coming from that trailer. These are the things that people remember,” Giovanni said making eye contact with her audience. She talked about how young men and women who have graduated college and are successful still think of themselves as the fat kid. She is a firm believer in the power of words.

Giovanni, born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni Jr., was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. She attended Fisk University, which is located in Nashville TN, and earned her B.A. in history. She began writing poetry and novels at an early age and has received over 70 honors and awards since her first piece of writing was published. These honors include Ladies Home Journal: Woman of the Year in 1972 and being an invited guest at the Millenium Evening at the White House in April, 1998.

The accolades that she has collected are numerous. She has earned 16 honorary degrees, keys to 24 cities and has published 27 books. Giovanni has also published over 117 essays, short stories and poems. She stated that she publishes everything that she writes and that if she died today the only thing that has not been published is the unfinished book on her computer.

Giovanni is against censorship. In California, the Oakland school board was the first to ban one of her books. South Africa has banned all of her books and she has been asked to respond to these interdictions. She does not find it necessary to respond.

Giovanni spoke about censorship after watching the 2001 Grammys. She commented on how she is not an Eminem fan, yet she would not try to censor him. Eminem, Marshall Mathers, is a rap artist who has been under public scrutiny since his controversial persona stepped into the spotlight. Giovanni does not believe that Eminem would have been nominated with those lyrics if her were a black man.

“If white boys are going to rap they need to rap about something that is real,” Giovanni said. “He needs to dig deeper.”

Giovanni commented on her respect for the late rapper Tupac Shakur, and his lyrics. She felt that even though she didn’t necessarily like the music, she could enjoy and learn from the lyrics.

When Giovanni was a child her mother would listen to blues records. Giovanni is a jazz and blues aficionado, and she was very pleased that Steely Dan won three Grammys. She loved the album “Shame About Me.”

“Listen to this and learn about yourself,” she said.

Giovanni does not beat around the bush when talking to her audience and her speeches are filled with sarcasm. She told the audience that she has not watched the news since Bush won the presidency because it makes her crazy. She does enjoy watching Sportscenter and Georgetown’s basketball team. She is currently a creative writing professor at Virginia Tech and she assured her listeners that she does not make her students read or buy her books.

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