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Sending Birthday Wishes to Our Queen, Nikki Giovanni

June 7, 2022

Today we celebrate the poet, the activist, the dreamer, and the mastermind-Ms. Nikki Giovanni. She is one of the world’s most well-known African-American poets and her birthday is another year we get to honor one of our legends. Join us as we celebrate her and reflect on her influence, courage, and critical lens that crafted her poetry and legacy.  

Giovanni’s Inspiration

An avid reader, Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni Jr. was born in Knoxville, Tenn., and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Every chance she got, she’d entertain herself by sinking into her mother’s library to explore authors like Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and John Hershey. She’d also listen to music that played on the radio—from gospel spirituals and jazz to opera, the hymns, lyrics, and beats all intertwined into Giovanni’s aspirations and dreams—to discover new things.  

Several life events impacted Giovanni and became the focal point of her writing. Her love of poetry became therapy and mechanisms for coping with challenging experiences. When Giovanni followed in her father’s footsteps at Fisk University in 1960, she was expelled after clashing with the Dean of Women but returned in 1964 to complete her studies. After her return, she penned an essay in the ‘Negro Digest,’ among several other published articles, and graduated in 1967.

The Black Arts Movement

Giovanni was actively involved in the Black Arts Movement, an emergence of politically motivated Black poets, writers, and artists between 1965 and 1975. Giovanni penned some of her well-known pieces during this era in combination with life events. Her poems invigorated both Black unity and progressive action. After losing her grandmother, she wrote poetry for her collection, ‘Black Feelings,’ ‘Black Talk,’ later self-published in 1968. Giovanni gave birth to her only child in 1969, and after being accused of bad parenting, she wrote six children’s books. She was also named the Princess of Black Poetry by the New York Times.

In addition to poetry and children’s books, Giovanni is known for her essays and conversations, records, tapes, CDs, and films. ‘Truth Is On Its Way,’ Giovanni’s first album released in 1971, is a spoken-word album set to gospel music. She received an award for ‘Best Spoken Word Album’ by the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers in 1971.

Positivity First

Giovanni’s positive outlook on life has not only helped her create beautiful works of art but face some of life’s most complex challenges with a glass-half-full mindset. For example, after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1995, she refused to narrate her cancer journey with negativity and even fired a doctor that set a date for her death. Nevertheless, she conquered her cancer battle and is still living as a cancer survivor.

As we celebrate Giovanni’s birthday, we admire the strength, beauty, courage, and wisdom she eloquently shared through pen and paper. Throughout all her bodies of works, she creates eclectic repetition with her words, phrases, and ideas to emphasize themes that resonate with diverse audiences across the world.