Civil rights activist and world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni visited California State University Stanislaus this weekend,holding a series of free, open events for the academic community.
After a keynote address on Sunday afternoon, Giovanni returned to the university on Monday morning to hold an informal conversation with students, faculty, and members of the community. With roughly 70 individuals in attendance, Giovanni read selected poems she has written over the years and discussed her own past.
“The past is the past, it’s what it had to be,” said Giovanni to the audience. “The future will go on, even if it scares you. But you must continue.”
Giovanni, known as the “Princess of Black Poetry,” also discussed black history, marriage equality, and other topics related to civil rights issues.
“Through the years, I have tried to be an acolyte for black history,” said Giovanni. “Everything needs to be recorded. Everything needs to be written about.”
Through reading her poetry and discussing issues of social justice, Giovanni stressed the importance of individuals working together for the benefit of humankind.
“America keeps teaching us that we need to look out for ourselves, look out for number one,” said Giovanni. “But the laws of nature tells us differently. It’s not self-preservation, but species preservation.”
Giovanni also shared stories of working with other famous writers such as Toni Morrison and Angela Davis throughout the years, and recalled times when they would sit around a table and share poetry with one another.
“That’s what we poets do, for any occasion…we always have a poetry reading.”
After her talk, Giovanni opened the discussion for questions. Many of the students who attended the event took the opportunity to ask Giovanni questions regarding her poetry, happiness, and more.
“We don’t get to have as many speakers as we would like to,” said CSU Stanislaus spokesperson Dave Tonelli. “So we are so pleased to have had the opportunity of having Nikki Giovanni here with us. It is really exciting.”