Nikki Giovanni“If you waited for people to want to hear you, you’d never speak,” said Nikki Giovanni, world-renowned poet, activist, writer, and educator, last Thursday night in Love Auditorium.

As the keynote speaker for Black History Month, Giovanni related the ongoing civil rights movement to themes of science, education, love, politics, and power.

Giovanni integrated poetry, jokes, and anecdotes into her lecture titled An Evening of Poetry, Love, and Enlightenment. The event was organized and sponsored by the Black Student Union (BSU).

Encouraging students to be understanding and active participants in the world, Giovanni said: “We need to utilize your enthusiasm and your curiosity. We need you while you’re young. The inventions that have been worldwide have come from kids.” She also emboldened students to ask questions, develop a critical stance, and act on it. “When we stand for something, it’s better for all of us.”

With a lively frankness, Giovanni also criticized the ongoing inequalities facing black Americans and connected their struggles to the broader issues of discrimination and marginalization in the United States today.

“I love how she says what everyone else is thinking but doesn’t want to say,” commented Aicha Ba ’17. “She’s real.” 

The rest of the audience warmly received Giovanni as well; her jokes were reliably met with roaring laughter and interjections.

Afterward, students, faculty, and community members were invited for a 45-minute reception where they got the opportunity to meet the poet and ask questions in a smaller setting. She graciously stood for pictures and gave further words of wisdom to the swarm of eager students who filled up the auditorium staircase in a line to meet her.

To further celebrate Black History Month, the BSU has planned a host of events ranging from a Black Identity Brown Bag at the Center for Women’s Studies on February 18, a release night on Friday, February 21, in the ALANA Lounge from 6-8 p.m., and the annual Heritage Dinner in the Coop Media Lounge on February 28.

The club is also co-sponsoring the Brothers’ Black History Month keynote speaker, entrepreneur Christopher Gardner, on February 27 as well as the Muslim Student Association’s screening of the documentary Prince Among Slaves.

“We can all learn a lot from black history,” emphasized BSU President Marshall Scott ’14. “Black history is everyone’s history. It should be celebrated year-round.”