World-renowned poet, author, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni will visit SMU Feb. 3 to help kick off the University’s 2012 Black History Month celebration. Her lecture is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.
Dubbed “the Princess of Black Poetry” early in her career, Giovanni prides herself on being “a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English.” As committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the Black community. Her focus, according to her bio at nikki-giovanni.com, “is on the individual, specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus, in the lives of others.”
Giovanni’s honors include NAACP Image Awards for her poetry collections Love Poems, Blues: For All the Changes and Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea. Her most recent work, Bicycles: Love Poems (2009), reached #1 on Amazon.com in the Poetry category. Her 2005 children’s picture book Rosa, about the civil rights legend Rosa Parks, was named a Caldecott Honors Book (Bryan Collier, the illustrator, received the Coretta Scott King Award for best illustration). Rosa also reached #3 on The New York Times bestseller list.
The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, on which Giovanni herself reads and talks about her poetry, was nominated for a 2004 Grammy Award. Her autobiography, Gemini, was a finalist for the 1973 National Book Award.
The recipient of some 25 honorary degrees, Giovanni has been named Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle Magazine, The Ladies Home Journal, and Ebony Magazine. She has received Governor’s Awards from the states of Tennessee and Virginia, as well as the Langston Hughes Medal for poetry. She was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award, as well as the first recipient of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award from the Chicago Public Library Foundation and the Chicago Public Library in 2007.
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and raised in Cincinnati, Giovanni graduated with honors in history from Fisk University. Since 1987, she has been a faculty member at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where she is a University Distinguished Professor of English.
Black History Month, celebrated annually in the United States, seeks to educate the American people about African-Americans’ cultural backgrounds and achievements. Each year, the President issues a proclamation to call attention to the importance of the observance. SMU celebrates the month with a variety of events, which are free and open to the community.