Sunday evening is Lawrence University’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration: “Understanding Expressions of Regret.” Sponsored by Toward Community: Unity in Diversity and Lawrence University, the event will honor the lifeworks of the well-known activist, and also explore contemporary diversity issues.
Speaking this year is world-renowned poet, essayist, and author Nikki Giovanni. This popular American poet is noted for her integration of political and social issues into her many forms of writing as well as for her personal involvement in the Black Arts Movement.
The Black Arts Movement (BAM) was considered by some as an artistic outlet of the Black Power movement during the mid to late 1960s. It was based around the concept of creating a black community by emphasizing the artistic forms unique to the African-American culture. This concept is included Giovanni’s poetry and writings, which often focus around what it means to be an African-American.
During her career, which has spanned over three decades, Giovanni has earned more awards and accolades than one can list. Commonly called one of the best known American poets of today, Giovanni has lectured and taught around the world, sharing her experiences and artistically expressed opinions throughout her travels.
Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tenn. in 1943. Soon after, she moved with her family to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she was raised. She attended Fisk University, an African-American liberal arts college where she was highly involved in the Writer’s Workshop as well as re-establishing the school’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chapter.
After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk, Giovanni worked on the organization of the first Cincinnati Black Arts Festival. In the late sixties she published her first poetry collections: Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968) and Black Judgment (1969), which are reflections on the African American identity during the times of the civil rights movement.
Since the beginning of her career, Giovanni has published and produced many different types of writing, including collections of children’s poetry and spoken word audio collections, and has received numerous awards. These include several Women of the Year Awards from Ebony, Essence Magazine, Mademoiselle and the Ladies Home Journal, as well as several NAACP Image Awards for Literature and most recently the Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award.
As well as a prolific writing career and extensive awards, Giovanni has been the recipient of honorary degrees in Humanities, Literature, Fine Arts and Human Letters from over 20 colleges and universities. She is currently a full-time professor of English and Black Studies at the Virginia Polytech Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va.
This is not Giovanni’s first appearance at Lawrence. In 1988 she was a guest speaker for Lawrence’s convocation series, lecturing on “Poetry and the Black Experience.”
Sunday’s lecture will most likely hold a special significance for Giovanni because of her closeness to the topic. In 1968, Giovanni attended the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and she has always been closely involved with the struggle for racial equality.
The event will be Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. in Memorial Chapel. Entrance is free and open to the public. Afterwards, Nikki Giovanni will be available for a meet and greet session in the chapel, where she will be available to answer questions.
Any questions regarding the event itself should be addressed to the Multi-Cultural Affairs Department of Lawrence University at 832-7051.