nikki giovanni

shidaeja clayton

Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee,to Yolande Cornelia, Sr. and Jones "Gus" Giovanni. She grew up in Lincoln Heights, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, and in 1960 began her studies at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, her grandfather's alma mater. She graduated in 1967 with honors, receiving a B.A. in history. Afterward she went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. In 1969 Giovanni began teaching at Livingston College of Rutgers University, and since 1987, she has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. She has received the NAACP Image Award several times, received twenty honorary doctorates and various other awards, including the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, and the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters.She also holds the key to several different cities, including Dallas, Miami, New York, and Los Angeles. She is a member of the Order of the Eastern Star(PHA), and an Honorary Member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Giovanni ca. 1980

Giovanni taught the Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho in a poetry class. She described him as "mean" and "menacing", when she approached the department chair to have Cho taken out of her class, and said she was willing to resign rather than continue teaching him. She stated that, upon hearing of the shooting, she immediately suspected that Cho might be the shooter. Giovanni was asked by Virginia Tech President, Charles Steger, to give a convocation speech the day before the memorial service. She was asked by Steger at 5pm on April 16, 2007 and gave the speech April 17. She expressed that she usually feels very comfortable delivering speeches but worried that her emotion would get the best of her.On April 17, 2007, at the Virginia Tech Convocation commemorating the April 17 Virginia Tech massacre,Giovanni closed the ceremony with a chant poem, intoning:


Childhood rememberances are
always a drag if you're Black
you always remember things like
living in Woodlawn with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
They never talk about how happy
you were to have your mother
all to yourself and how good the
water felt when you got your bath
from one of those
Big tubs that folk in chicago barbeque
in and somehow when you talk
about home
it never gets across how much you
understood their feelings as the
whole family attended meetings

About Hollydale and even though you
remember your biographers never
understand your father's pain as he
sells his stock and another
dream goes
And though your're poor it isn't
poverty that concerns you and
though they fought a lot
it isn't your father's drinking that
makes any difference but only that

Everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays
and very good Christmasses and I
really hope no white person ever has
cause to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they'll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy Nikki Giovanni