A Tribute to Nikki Giovanni

I’ve been reading, over several months, now, several books by Nikki Giovanni:

Reading Nikki and knowing Nikki as a colleague and friend at Virginia Tech has been a treat.  Nikki is such an authentic woman, with the power to impact people at their core, in their soul, at the depth of their spirit.  She has an incredible talent to connect with humanity, the human quality of life, the universal.  She has such wisdom – wisdom gained from years of fighting and calling out injustice.  Many forget that she was such a part of the Civil Rights Movement, using her words as weapons in the battle.  We often forget the harassment, the death threats, the hatred that many had towards her and yet, she persevered with her words.  She never stopped speaking.   It would have been so easy to stop, to quit, yet when you have a gift that must be given, there is no choice but to give.  And Nikki has given the world a gift.  It is not just poetry, but the power of laughter and humor.  She helps us to laugh at life and in life. She unselfishlessly and selflessly shares herself.

Nikki spoke at the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy Conference at Virginia Tech in 2017.  Nikki so empowered our conference and the women.  She shared a poem, too, to encourage us.

Nikki is so gracious with her time and talent at Virginia Tech. At a staff leadership seminar at Virginia Tech, she encouraged us all to write poems.  Take some time to be blessed by Nikki’s presentation below:


And, so, Nikki, I found some poems in me for you, inspired by you.

The Only One

I don’t like when people

get mad at you

for being angry

at politics

at mean White men

at injustice

at racism

at violence

and calling it out

with angry words

in truth

we should all be angry

and call it out

with angry words

so you wouldn’t be the




Good God in heaven, Nikki

How do you find the courage

Fearlessness, power to

say what others think

but are too afraid to speak


I am still learning to be unafraid

to use the words that God

used to create the world

that God gave me to use

I know She wants me to.

Tears for Humanity

Today, I cried, Nikki

hot, wet salty tears

mixed with mucus that just ran like a river

Maybe like you said, we all need a good cry

I cry often though

not so much for me



But more for humanity

for Black people,

Whites, too

Colored people in the world

Just the world

For the pain

For the suffering

For the loneliness

For the fear

I cried for you, too

as I remembered why I fell in love with

Your words

30 years ago in a Black poetry class

at Iowa with Melba Boyd

Your words of




words of



seeking and

not quite finding

May my tears today water

your poetry with a prayer that can

grow the seeds of





Walking the Talk

You make us laugh

You remind us to be human

You call us to love

You ask us to rise above

You set a high bar

You challenge injustice

You talk a good game

You walk the talk, too

You are a