Nikki Giovanni panelist, celebrated at CSU literary conference

The literary force that is poet Nikki Giovanni descended upon the campus of Chicago State University’s Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Conference Giant’s Day Celebration. She was feted Saturday with recitations and praise for her works.

The literary force that is poet Nikki Giovanni descended upon the campus of Chicago State University’s Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Conference Giant’s Day Celebration. She was feted Saturday with recitations and praise for her works.

During workshops held that day, conference attendees took part in examinations of Giovanni’s works. There were testimonials on her literary influence and her work across generations, including he contributions as a woman writer.

Then the bestselling poet participated in a workshop that was a conversation with her. Her participation in the conference culminated that evening with her Giant’s Day addres. Giovanni’s opinions, like her poetry, are still arresting and thought provoking. The Defender spoke with her during the conference, which ran April 1-3.

She has strong criticism for what she considers President Barack Obama’s lack of attention to issues affecting impoverished Black and brown communities.

"He’s had time to bail out everybody else, what about the Black community? We need somebody to champion us. You can’t be the choice if you’re not doing the job," Giovanni told the Defender. The Bicyles and Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry author has been a strong advocate for the hip hop community and its exploration of artisitic freedom. Hip hop soul recording artist Erykah Badu’s new video for her recently released single Window Seat has seat off a national fuss.

In the video shot in Dallas, she strips naked and then pretends tobe shot to death near the site where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Critics call the video insulting. Giovanni considers it the art that is part of Badu’s persona.  "I think that anybody Black can identify with Kennedy’s assassination. It was a way of taking the voice,” the multiple NAACP Image Award recipient said. “Badu is real smart. Whatever it is, I trust her sensibility way more than I trust peoples’ criticism.”

Giovanni has penned over 30 books of poetry and is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech university where she teaches English.

She shared the Giant’s Day honors with out-going CSU Professor Haki Madhubuti, founder and director emeritus of the university’s Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing. It was announced at the event that he would be retiring.

“I have known Haki for 30 years,” Giovanni said. “When he called, I was happy to say yes.” This year’s event marked the 20th anniversary of the conference, which celebrates all forms of written word.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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