Nikki Giovanni at Edward Waters College
by William Jackson, M.Ed.
The 66 year old Nikki Giovanni; http://nikki-giovanni.com/
is honest and solid in her opinions about
Black people (Negros) as she announces,
education (every child needs a computer),
gays, politics, technology (Negros must
learn computers especially inner city youth),
women’s rights, men’s responsibilities to
their families, sex (teach kids to be responsible
about sex), slavery, Hip Hop, Dr. King,
(greatly influenced by his father),
Malcolm X (a great speaker), President Obama
(awesome role model), Whitney Houston(no one
really helped her) and other subjects.
She runs a gambit of ideologies and her beliefs
that are both strict and based on the actions
and choices a person makes. Ms. Giovanni does
not hold back how she feels or what she thinks
about past and current events.
She was more than happy to share with the
several hundred in attendance at Milne Aud-
itorium on the campus of Edward Waters College;
the oldest HBCU in Florida; the responsibility
of students today to prepare to lead as adults
in a technological world. EWC students were told
that, “You go to college for a career, not a job.
Education is more important now than ever before.
”Commenting about the value of HBCU’s Historically
Black Colleges and Universities in the 21st century,
Ms. Giovanni stated that, “anyone that questions
the validity of HBCU’s is stupid, they provide a
quality and realistic education. Many White
schools would not admit Negros because of
their backgrounds, financials and family
responsibilities.” Mentioning White schools
won’t take a chance on most Negros, but HBCU’s
have been doing that for years and
successfully teaching. Negros cannot afford to
be unprepared to meet the challenges of
educating their children and providing financial
security in a world where a White
mentality has ruled with devastating results
for people of color.
Ms. Giovanni speaks that Negros should not expect
anyone to give them anything, they
must work for achievement and many children are
being taught the wrong lessons of life by giving
children shoes and clothes worth hundreds of dollars,
but cannot read on grade level or perform simple
math functions. All children have a right to a
quality education, but too many parents are not
taking responsibility for providing for their
child’s education when education starts home
The dialogue was animated, passionate, humorous,
serious, and at times controversial in
Ms. Giovanni’s remarks. According to Ms. Giovanni
she has a right to express her viewpoints about
many subjects living to the age of 66 years young.
As she stated youth need to listen to seniors
(parents and grandparents) in their lives because
seniors have learned from their mistakes and know
more about life than youth. That youth should not
feel they are owed anything because they have not
earned anything yet or sacrificed for anything like
those that participated in the civil rights movement
of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s or World Wars.
This is my first opportunity to listen and
learn from the iconic poet, writer, educator
(Virginia Tech Professor), civil rights participant,
mentor and role model. There were several refer-
ences that Ms. Giovanni made about the struggles
of Negros in America and how Negros helped to build
this country through slavery, how Negros were
treated as less than second class citizens in
what is still the greatest free country in the world.
Ms. Giovanni’s focus on education is empowering and
honest in the discussion that if Negros do not take
responsibility for education and promote learning
in their homes they will continue to be economically
left behind in poverty and lack political power.
Her observations that Negros could have more political
power like Jews or other cultures if they worked
together, and not allow their minds to be manipulated
by the entertainment industry and false advertising.
Promoting education instead of the entertainment
industry, Ms. Giovanni, stated everyone cannot be
an entertainer as a rapper, football player,
basketball player, dancer or other artist in enter-
tainment. On the opposite end more Negro youth can
be doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, scientist
and other professionals if parents would change
their mentalities and teach their children about
how these careers benefit them more.
Ms. Giovanni discussed her passion for youth and
education by sharing with the students
of EWC that they are just as talented and gifted
as any other student even Ivy League students.
DCPS students from several middle and high schools
that attended were told to be responsible for their
lives and the choices that they make. To find a role
model of someone that is extraordinary, successful
and supportive. Reminding youth that extraordinary
people accept their responsibilities in life and
strive to improve themselves and their communities.
Television has created a bad image of successful
people especially Negros, once they are successful
they should come back to their neighbourhoods and
help others not leave and never return.
She stated, “Don’t be selfish, there should not be
a mentality of I’m looking out for number
one, but a mentality of working together.” Other
cultures support each other, that is why their
cultures are successful, more Negros need to do
the same to lift up Negro youth from
poverty, lack of education and help establish career
goals. The mention of more responsible
Negro men who are role models is needed and fathers
who help create a child should stay in that child’s
life and help raise them, that is why so many youth
are in our prison systems and live in poverty, too
many men make children, but do not want to support them.
As Ms. Giovanni coming close to her conclusion read
several of her poems that the audience applauded
“Ego Tripping” http://nikki-giovanni.com/page_51.shtml
this was a treat to the youth that have aspirations of
writing and poetic abilities. At the conclusion
of her discussion Ms. Giovanni reminded the women
present of their roles as mothers, nurturers,
educators, role models and the strength that sustained
them through slavery, wars, civil rights and other
events throughout history. Firmly stating with strong
conviction that, ”if Black women did not exists they
would have to be invented.”
The applause and cheers echoed for several minutes
especially from young women and seniors some even
cried to her prophetic statements about women of color
and their continued strength to raise families and
take care of a home without a husband.
As a child raised by a single mother, I reflected
on the strength of my mother in raising myself
and two younger siblings with the help of my
grandmother. A father not being a part of our life,
agreeing with Ms. Giovanni’s comments and inwardly
thanking my mother for her strength, her prayers and
perseverance through good times and hard times.
Photos of event