“If the Black woman wasn’t born, she’d have to be invented.”
Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr (birth name for Nikki Giovanni) is 76.
With the praise of Maya Angelou, I think that she is often overlooked. With her still doing what she loves (writing, teaching, speaking) at this age. I cannot help but see my future self in her person.
She has a THUG LIFE tattoo on her forearm because she was a fan of his! Like, there is nothing about her that cannot be asked of her! As I age, I have become more and more of fan of her work. I find myself reaching for any evidence of her on film. There is a militant nature to Nikki that is never overwhelming, but it is inviting!
After the massacre at Virginia Tech some years ago, I was moved by her impassioned speech to the student body (she had taught the student whom perpetrated the massacre). I remember when she said, “We are the Hokies!” with her white collared shirt sticking out of her black blazer. Where Maya was hot tea with lemon and honey, Nikki is Southern Comfort. It may be smooth at first, but there is always fire in it.
Her books are best sellers, and she still is as sharp as a tack. The lists of her awards? She’s a living damn legend. Why wouldn’t she be? Why shouldn’t a Black woman of note still be doing the exact thing she is noted and loves to do? One of the reason why I believe Nikki needs more shine, and more light is because is and can be so overlooked among the group I believe is she is lumped into. Which isn’t bad company! That group includes: Toni Morrison, Rita Dove and even the Grand Dame Gwendolyn Brooks.
Nikki Giovanni is prolific. Prophetic. And powerful. She has the quality and air that will wrap you in the presence of her prose–just like any good Mama telling you to sit down and eat. What she serves is this consistent diet of love, loving your Blackness, and valuing Blackness in a world that wishes to water down anything that has color.
She is indeed a rainbow in the clouds.