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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Legend Nikki Giovanni visits UMass Boston

Olivia Reid
Nikki Giovanni was honored at UMass Boston for her achievements in poetry and activism on March 19, which is now formally Nikki Giovanni Day. Photo by Olivia Reid / Photography Editor.

Living legend Nikki Giovanni graced the UMass Boston Campus Center Ballroom last Tuesday, March 19. Giovanni is known for her years of commitment and dedication to American poetry, as well as her contributions to children’s literature and activism. 

The event was put on by several school departments and organizations including the College of Education and Human Development, Healey Library, the Black Faculty and Staff Association, the College of Liberal Arts, The Mass Media, the Honors College, Quinn Graphics, Student Affairs, the Women’s Center and the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture. Among those in attendance were Massachusetts State Senator Liz Miranda, representation from the Boston Mayor’s Office, and Provost and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph Berger. 

The event started with several speakers including two of the aforementioned guests. Senator Miranda presented Giovanni with the Massachusetts Commonwealth Certificate of Greatness. The representative from Mayor Wu’s office declared March 19 as Nikki Giovanni Day in Boston and presented her with a letter from the Mayor.

After several esteemed acclamations were presented and a standing ovation was given from the audience,  Giovanni took the stage to speak. With her witty humor and intelligent mind, she began to discuss her many life accomplishments, and shared several stories from her life. 

Giovanni taught at Virginia Tech for many years until she recently stepped down.

“As an educator,” she said. “I can teach you how to write, but I cannot make you interesting.” She also took the time to go back to her activist roots by calling to the audience to vote Democrat in November.

“I know I’m in Massachusetts, so I don’t have to worry about the Democratic vote, but vote Democrat,” she said. Her speech was flecked with references to the current political climate.

“It’s better to be with the people who are saying something, than the people who are trying to stop people from saying something,” she said in response to book bans. When reflecting on book bans, she said that before her book was banned, she wanted to join the banned authors.

“Did they even read my book?” she joked. “Ban my book!” She views it as an accomplishment that her book “Rosa” was banned because, apparently, reading about segregation is divisive, said LeVar Burton on The Daily Show. 

At the end of her speech, the audience was able to ask questions. When asked about her bucket list, she said, “I want to beat Bobby Flay,” and that she would love to go into space. However, an astronaut told her they would be able to bring her to the International Space Station, but not bring her down.

“Just open a window and let me out,” she said in response.

When asked about her music taste, she said she loves Billie Holiday. “My one regret is that I never saw Billie Holiday live,” she said.

Throughout several questions asking for advice, she had the same response: “Don’t let the people who dislike you control your mind. Find someone who supports you, because there will always be someone, and hold onto that.”

It was an honor and a privilege to host Nikki Giovanni at UMass Boston. Her written works are available to purchase on her website.

About the Contributors
Rena Weafer, Arts Editor
Olivia Reid, Photo Editor