Acclaimed poet and activist Nikki Giovanni to speak at Union

Her talk is part of the Presidential Forum on Diversity series
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Acclaimed poet and activist Nikki Giovanni to speak at Union


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World-renowned poet, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni will speak Thursday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the Nott Memorial.

Her talk, "An Evening of Poetry, Love and Enlightenment," is part of the Presidential Forum on Diversity series. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Born in Knoxville, Tenn., Giovanni grew up in Lincoln Heights, an all-black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. After graduating with honors from Fisk University, she attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, she published her first book of poetry, “Black Feeling Black Talk,” in 1968.

Her work includes poetry anthologies, poetry recordings and nonfiction essays, and covers topics ranging from race and social issues to children’s literature. Early in her career, Giovanni was dubbed the “Princess of Black Poetry” for her unique and powerful poetry focusing on strong racial pride.

She is the author of some 30 books. Her autobiography, “Gemini,” was a finalist for the National Book Award. “Love Poems, Blues: For All the Changes” and “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea,” were honored with NAACP Image Awards. “Rosa,” a children's picture book about civil rights icon Rosa Parks, was a Caldecott Honors Book. Her latest collection is “A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter.”

The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Giovanni was the first honoree of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award. She has also been awarded the Langston Hughes Medal for Poetry. She is a member of the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame and was named an Outstanding Woman of Tennessee. Oprah Winfrey named her one of her 25 “Living Legends.”

Giovanni is a Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University, where she has taught since 1987.

The Presidential Forum on Diversity was established in 2006 by President Stephen C. Ainlay to bring in notable speakers on a wide range of topics that promote diversity and inclusiveness.

Previous speakers have included poet Maya Angelou, journalist and television news anchor John Quiñones, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, faith leader Eboo Patel, Broadway star Anthony Rapp, actress Marlee Matlin and Rob King, who oversees ESPN’s SportsCenter.

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