Nikki Giovanni Gives Black History Month Keynote Address

Kelsey Soderberg

World-renowned poet, writer, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni visited the Colgate campus last week to give the keynote address for Black History Month. Her lecture called “An Evening of Poetry, Love and Enlightenment” involved a reading of several of her most riveting poems, along with a lighthearted conversation among the engrossed audience in Love Auditorium.

Giovanni, who works as a University Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech University, spoke to students and faculty about her determination to fight for civil rights and equality by discussing her own experiences and opinions regarding black history.

“Black history is American history and is well worth our pursuit… When we stand for something, it’s better for all of us,” Giovanni said.

Along with delving deep into somber subjects like slavery and war, Giovanni commanded the audience with her upbeat and hilarious discussions about interplanetary travel, study abroad, rap artists and even the TV show “Deal or No Deal.” She was an entertainer as much as an academic as all of her anecdotes connected together to educate the Colgate audience about morality, equality, history and modern issues like education reform and the increase of minimum wage.

Students in the audience enjoyed her spoken-word poems and wise advice about living a “good life.” Many laughed along with her personal anecdotes and listened attentively to her poems concerning the troubles of African Americans.

“I feel like it’s always important to hear from an older generation, especially an older generation of color. That’s history right there and our culture in person. We’re hearing her perspective that I think Colgate doesn’t get a lot, and it’s still fresh and new and hilarious,” sophomore Chantel Melendez said.

After the lecture, students had the opportunity to attend a reception and to meet Giovanni while discussing issues and asking questions.

Known as the “Princess of Black Poetry,” Giovanni has recently been named one of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends.” And along with being one of America’s most widely-read poets, Giovanni frequently tours the country giving lectures and educating people on black history.

Coordinating with the Africana, Latin American, Asian American, and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, the Black Student Union (BSU) sponsored Giovanni’s trip to campus.

“She was passionate, real and just told the truth, so I thought bringing Nikki Giovanni to Colgate would not just be beneficial for the BSU, but also all of Colgate to see,” President of the BSU senior Marshall Scott said. “Because of her age and what she has done as a poet, lecturer and academic, it inspires us to be like her, regardless of race, sexuality or gender. Since we’re young, we need to have someone like her to inspire us and educate us on how to speak up about what’s going on in the world.”

Contact Kelsey Soderberg at [email protected]