Nikki Giovanni is a contemporary poet that writes about very controversial and impacting topics. Nikki Giovanni is a female of African American descent, and so has grown up dealing with many racial and gender issues and inequalities. Giovanni has become an activist and an active speaker on the topics of race and gender, which is seen in many of her poems.
Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, but spend most of her life growing up in Lincoln Heights. Lincoln Heights is an all-black suburban area of Cincinnati, Ohio. While living here with her parents and her older sister, Gary, she and her family faced many incidents that have helped shape how Giovanni acts and reacts to situations in today’s world. During the time that Nikki was enrolled in an all black school for her 7th grade year, her sister Gary was enrolled in Wyoming High School, which used to be an all-white school with the exception of this year with the addition and desegregation by Gary and two other black students. Gary faced many events that were seen as okay by the white students but were taken very harshly buy Gary and her two other black student counterparts. When Emmitt Till was killed in 1955, the teacher at Gary’s school claimed that Emmitt Till “got what he deserved.” (Giovanni) This greatly angered Gary and her friends, who walked out in protest, eventually leading to the school sending an apology to the families of these students. This incident and the other preceding events were the reason that Nikki’s parents kept Nikki from going to a desegregated school to finish the years she had left.
According to her biography page, Nikko attended many schools and colleges throughout her life in school and had run into numerous problems that could have held her back and discouraged her from excelling in earning her degree and pursuing her goals in life regarding poetry, but these events have just pushed her harder and gave her a reason to prove wrong that has doubted her in the past. This is something that I admire about Giovanni and I wish for other people to follow her footsteps and do the same with their own lives.
In Nikki Giovanni’s Bicycles: Love Poems, there are many poems that focus not only on the issues of race and gender inequality but also other events that have happened rather recently and her stand on them. The first poem in this book, called Blacksburg Under Siege: 21 August 2006, talks about the many issues in society on a very basic but meaningful level. The first stanza talks about the issues in society concerning bullying, intoxication, racism, and explicit language/freedom of language. Giovanni states “What mean fraternity boys do with their fists… and drunk fraternity boys do with their penises…” to emphasize the simplicity yet the extent of this bullying and behavior. We as a group don’t automatically think of all the negatives when fraternities are mentioned, but when the fists and penises of these males are mentioned, we think more about the realistic events that happen and see just how these things that started off as groups to connect yourself with and gain outside connections from there have now turned into bullying being okay for acceptance and drunk sex acts at parties being the “norm” and the best parts of these associations. I feel like this stanza does a great job of preparing us for what the rest of the poem will be about along with the extent to which we shake off these instances and don’t think of their actual meanings when it comes to reality. Giovanni continues to say, “Whether it’s a redneck screaming ‘nigger’… illegal and unkind behavior tells someone s/he doesn’t belong…” (Page1) Growing up with instances of racial segregation and inequality, I think that these lines are the strongest in the poem. This shows how she is still thinking about things that have happened in her past that still affect her and the fact that she wants other people to realize how these things can really affect and...
Cited: Cornelia, Yolanda. "Yolanda Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni: Poet, Virginia Tech University Professor." Yolanda Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni: Poet, Virginia Tech University Professor. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014.
Giovanni, Nikki. Bicycles: Love Poems. New York: William Morrow, 2009. Print.
McDaniel, Jan. "The Authority of a Writer: An Interview with Nikki Giovanni By Jan McDaniel *Writers Write -- The IWJ*." The Authority of a Writer: An Interview with Nikki Giovanni By Jan McDaniel *Writers Write -- The IWJ*. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014.
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