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Nikki Giovanni: ‘White People Have to Grow Up’

Amid what many considered a “Black genocide” in America, coupled with a tension-filled presidential election season in its waning moments, award-winning writer, poet and activist Nikki Giovanni sheds light on a disrupted society.

As one of the world’s most renowned Black American poets and one of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 “Living Legends, the longtime distinguished professor at Virginia Tech University recently waxed poetic about police brutality and society ills as a whole.

“The police and black citizens have had problems for a long time, this is nothing new,” Giovanni said. “And if you go back in history, what we had is the [Ku Klux Klan] and black citizens and once they got rid of the KKK, it looks to me as though they joined the police department.

“I think white people have to grow up, I do.” she said. “That thinking that they are superior and everything is one way, but are then scared of a 13-year-old black boy walking down the street? … What does that mean? If you’re supposed to be superior, why are you afraid of unarmed men? Does that make sense?

“If Maya Angelou were still here she would be upset, but Maya was very kind,” she said. “If I could reach into heaven and get one person back, I would get Nina Simone, because she would curse them out! That’s who I want.”

With race relations a hot-button topic in this year’s presidential election, with more than 194 black Americans shot dead this year by police officials, Giovanni strongly urged all black citizens to get out and vote.

“I’m very fond of black people,” she said. “We’re a great people and I think it is so important that black people get out and vote, because our vote does matter.

“So many people have died to make this possible and this is the election that they were thinking about,” Giovanni said. “And I like Hillary [Clinton]. I don’t see anything unlikable about someone that has spent their life trying to help out other people, including black people.

“John Lewis and I went to school together at Fisk University,” she said. “If we didn’t vote, we wouldn’t have John Lewis in the House of Representatives. You have to vote.”

Giovanni didn’t mince words about Clinton’s Republican opponent, either.

“Tell me something, is Donald Trump on drugs? I think he’s on something,” she said.

In addition to her ravishing words of wisdom concerning the current state of black America, Giovanni is featured on a wall next to President Barack Obama inside of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, as part of the museum’s prolific quotes.

“I was so pleased to see my words at the museum next to President Obama’s,” she said. “I got tears in my eyes because I thought about my grandmother and my mother and what they would say if they could see this.

“It’s not a museum you can just go to once,” she said. “It’s like the Louvre in Paris, or the Metropolitan, or any other great museum you go to over and over again.”

Beginning her writing career in the late 1960s as one of the foremost authors of the Black Arts Movement, the sassy yet strong activist has written over 20 books and a multitude of poetries, but still prepares for her latest work of literature, “A Good Cry.”

The book, set to come out January, is a reflection of works with the intention to create a space that will allow all women a chance at a good cry, Giovanni said.

“We as women, we don’t cry,” she said. “People think we do, but we don’t. When things happen, we get it done. We don’t have time to stop and mourn and I think what we need is a good cry. To say, I’m not going to be brave about it, it hurts.”

With a sendoff message to those finding difficulty to cope or understand societal ills especially plaguing the black community, Giovanni offers up the poems “The Allowables,” “In the Spirit of Martin” and “Ego Tripping” as voices of strength, wisdom and clarity.

“These incidents play into my heart and my emotional areas,” she said. “They have not gotten into my writing, I am just not capable of doing that right now, it’s going to take longer for that to happen, but I carry my Black Lives Matter bag everyday, because black lives do matter.”

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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