The voice of renowned poet and lecturer Nikki Giovanni resonated with an attentive audience in Mitten Hall on Tuesday Nov. 19 with words befit of her nationally acclaimed status.
Known widely for her poetry encompassing the struggle and pride of the African American people, Giovanni defined the roles of African Americans from the jailhouse to Mars.
Expounding on issues as delicate as race intertwined with politics and the importance of understanding the ethnic struggles of the past, Giovanni’s words and foresight offered guidance as America and the rest of the world ascends into space.
“I think it’s so sad,” stated Giovanni ” that we have a whole generation that’s afraid. Afraid to speak up, afraid to say anything that may offend somebody, and yet your rights are being taken away slowly…we have so many black men in jail and it’s wrong. If you’re a white boy and your snorting cocaine, you get community service and a hundred dollar [fine].
If you’re a black boy with crack, you get twenty years…”
Uninhibited in her opinions, Giovanni went on to explain how the government uses prison to starve the inner cities of funding and to detain the voting power of incarcerated, black men.
For Giovanni prison is an “industry” through which African Americans are manipulated and denied the fundamental right to vote so as to one day see a positive change in their urban communities.
But with the right to vote taken away, people are left with one less defense against political powers.
“And if you don’t think that matters,” stated Giovanni “that is one reason why George Bush is the president today. Because somebody did not vote.”
With wild applause echoing in agreement, Giovanni continued on in the lecture by discussing her speech given at NASA in regards to a voyage project to outer space.
She voiced confidently her beliefs that Americans can conquest Mars successfully by learning from the African slave experience, namely the Middle Passage.
Forced by bondage into a land unknown, the Africans were aliens upon America soil, incapacitated by a foreign culture, but eventually struggled their way into making America their home.
Reciting a poem inspired by NASA’s mission entitled “Quilting The Black Eyed Peas, We’re Going to Mars,” Giovanni read “Mars is one year’s travel to get there plus one year living on Mars plus one year to return to people.
Three years of earthlings being in a tight spot, going to an unknown place with an unsure welcome awaiting them…tired bones…harsh conditions and no known landmarks to keep them new.
Only a hope and a prayer that they will be shadowed beneath a benign hand…the trip to Mars can only be understood by black Americans.”
Throughout the lecture, Giovanni also celebrated the power and beauty of the black woman, reading well-known poems such as “Ego-Tripping” and gaining a positive reaction from her listeners.
“I was happy with [Nikki Giovanni] being here and delivering the truth to people of all nationalities so they can maybe appreciate the struggles that black people go through, living in a world like ours,” said junior Vanessa Redding.
“The most important thing I got out of this was being empowered as a black woman. She captured the importance of a woman in the world perfectly and how we should be considered. But overall, I’d say the lectured was well worth my time.”
Coryn Brown can be reached McButtaflyz@aol.com