Wednesday, June 7, 2017

SRPS Role Model: Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni (born June 7, 1943)
"Deal with yourself as a individual, worthy of respect and make everyone else deal with you the same way."
Today is the 74th birthday of American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni.

She is considered one of the world's most well-known African-American poets, and often called the "Poet of the Black Revolution" because of her strong, often militant, response to current events. Growing up during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s, she came of age during the burgeoning Black Power Movement, and her work is a frank expression of her frustrations with the state of race relations around the world, as told from an African American perspective. Her first volume of poetry was a response to the civil unrest of the late 1960s after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

"Since no one wanted to publish me I formed a company and published myself."

As much as her work was critically acclaimed, she still had trouble finding publishers to take her on, so in the early 1970s she founded her own publishing company, NikTom Ltd., with the mission to provide publishing opportunities for other African American women as well, including Gwendolyn Brooks (who shares the same birthday!).

After the birth of her son, she expanded her writing to include children's books. In addition to poetry, she has also published several works of non-fiction addressing a wide range of social issues from racism to relationships, and even including works discussing the social importance of hip-hop.
"My dream was not to publish or to even be a writer: my dream was to discover something no one else had thought of. I guess that’s why I’m a poet. We put things together in ways no one else does."
Over the last 50 years, she has proven herself again and again as a leader for everyone who is working for a better, more equitable future. Through her work as a poet as well as her work for equality and justice, and her transition to serving as a committed elder guiding younger generations, she is the embodiment of the ideals of the Self-Rescuing Princess Society.

You can learn more about her life and work, as well as read many of her poems and articles in her Poetry Foundation entry.

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