By Brianna McAdoo, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dubbed “The Poet of the Black Revolution”, the legendary activist, poet and educator Nikki Giovanni received a warm welcome from the D.C. community as she shared excerpts from her new book, A Good Cry on October 26 at Busboys and Poets located on 450 K St N.W.
“A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter”, is Giovanni’s newest book- which is an introspective exploration of her life and the people who have had significant impact and influence along her journey.
Giovanni is a proud native of Knoxville, Tennessee and is an alumna of Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. where she received her B.A. in History. As both a revolutionary and literate, she initially gained notoriety in the 1960s during the Black Arts Movement where she began establishing herself as a premiere poet and author. Giovanni’s expansive body of work ranges from poetry to children’s books. In 1967, she established the first Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. Giovanni is the recipient of 7 NAACP Image Awards, has authored 3 New York and Los Angeles Times Best Sellers and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 “Living Legends.” She currently serves as a “distinguished professor” at Virginia Tech University.
The wise yet fiery spirit of Giovanni kept the audience captivated for the evening as she shared excerpts from her new book, social commentary on the current state of affairs in the world as well as invaluable, yet funny, takeaways from her own life experiences. In the not so typical style of a bookstore event, Giovanni started off the evening with the hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” using the opportunity not only as a teaching moment, but to build the feeling of community in the space. “So many of our young Black people…and maybe other people you know too…they don’t know the spirituals, they don’t know the hymns,” Giovanni said.
The celebrated poet shared her critiques on Donald Trump and when speaking on the racialized hate Black people have experienced in America, she talked about the beauty of Black people finding love and happiness in the midst of adversity. The audience laughed and cheered as she said, “I think they’re jealous because all that we went through somehow we found a way to laugh, somehow we found a way to dance, somehow we found a way to sing.” She took the time to positively affirm all the Black people in the room, reminding them that “We are a great people from a great people.”
Throughout the night she shared intimate moments about her life, family and the backstory behind her new book and its title. She revealed that she has had a hard time with processing emotions through moments of hardship and trauma. “I never learned how to cry,”Giovanni shared. “The problem is I have held in things and I need to learn to cry.”
During the Question and Answer portion of the night, Giovanni shared what distinguishes her as a poet.“What makes me a really good poet is that I have written some excellent poems, I have written some good poems, I have written some bad poems, what makes me truly almost brilliant is I know the difference.”
She continued to share advice for young writers,“Somebody’s gonna ask you, ‘What’s your favorite poem?’ You must never answer that because what you are doing is fighting against yourself.”
At the end of the evening, founder of Busboys and Poets Andy Shallal came to the stage to thank Giovanni and shared that Busboy’s would be celebrating the poet by officially naming their reading room the Nikki Giovanni Reading Room at their 450 K st NW location.