10 Facts About Nikki Giovanni

I had the honor of hearing and meeting poet/author/professor Nikki Giovanni speak last winter at my second son’s school. I attended two events where she spoke to a mixed group of middle and upper school students, then to an adult crowd in the evening. Her topics ran the gamut from politics, pop culture, science, history, education, and even tattoos.  I’ve summarized the top 10 most compelling lessons of that day:

  • Tatt Life. “Thug Life,” which is in honor of Tupac Shakur, is emblazoned on the inside of her left forearm. If JFK Jr. was America’s son, then Tupac belonged to Black America.
  • “I wanna give a doctorate to Jay-Z.” Rap is essential to teaching our youth about life. It’s the poetry of today.  Jay-Z deserves an honorary degree because he went from thug to gentleman. He represents a whole generation of young Blacks, including Queen Latifah and Tyler Perry, who are “the first true Americans,” because they understand and have harnessed the power of business in this land of opportunity.
  • Make Draft Not War. Giovanni believes in conscription for everyone, from the very old to the very young.  If we are all stuck side by side working together, we’d have to learn about each other.  In doing so, we’d not want to fight nor go to war because we’d have established understanding among ourselves.
  • Space is the next frontier. Why? Because we’re already exploring our oceans, and deep space would be the true frontier. Humans by nature are nomads.
  • Don’t ask her who her favorite poets are.  Unfair question.  She mostly reads history, theoretical mathematics, and theoretical science, and has spoken at NASA.
  • Slavery left us a gift. Slavery in the U.S. was about the journey of a free people who made a perilous journey to an unkind place and yet remained sane.
  • Teach and learn Black History. Give it more than one month. American Black history is about the history of mankind, how people have retained their humanity even after everything they owned was stripped away.  That despite the tribulations and suffering they are still contributing members to this society.
  • School all year round and starting each day at 6 a.m.  Yes, 6 a.m. Why, you wonder? Because then we could catch children just emerging from their dream states, when their minds are open and creative.
  • If she were POTUS, she’d have a Secretary of Sports. Be active, people! And if a wish could be granted, she’d play tennis with Venus Williams.  She said she’d look good too, sporting her new racket, and all would be well until the moment she had to move against Venus.
  • She does a pretty good impression of actress Ruby Dee, who was one of the readers of Giovanni’s 100 Best African American Poems.

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