Poet, activist Nikki Giovanni shares her life story through poetry


Renowned author and poet Nikki Giovanni recites poetry Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 in Cartwright Auditorium. Giovanni was the final presentation in Kent State’s Leadership Speaker Series.

Olivia Young

Laughter filled Cartwright Auditorium when Nikki Giovanni took the stage as the fifth and final speaker of the Leadership Speaker Series on Thursday, Nov. 6.

Giovanni, a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator, began by reading her first poem of the night, “Tennessee by Birth.”

In between each of the eight poems she read, Giovanni shared a memory or story with the audience.

“I loved how she connected with the audience,” said senior communications major Aubree Schilder. “When Nikki Giovanni talks, she makes you feel like you’re having a conversation with a friend.”

Before her third poem “The Right Way”, Giovanni talked about her grandmother’s grits.

“My grandmother made grits,” Giovanni said. “Every morning that she was well, she woke up and made grits. When I went to college, I lost 12 pounds in the first few months. With (my) grandmother, you couldn’t tell her you didn’t want to eat breakfast.”

The series, hosted by Center for Student Involvement (CSI), began on Sept. 15 and ended Thursday night with an evening of poetry and enlightenment.

Della Marie Marshall, senior associate director of the CSI, spearheaded the new Leadership Speaker Series and said she strategically placed Giovanni as the finale.

Giovanni is a social justice advocate and has been fighting social justice issues since the 1960s and does so through her poetry, Marshall said.

The Leadership Speaker Series was the first time CSI offered motivational speakers in a series. While each speaker’s topic varied, Marshall said the central theme was related to the center’s five leadership cornerstones: communication, service, teamwork, vision and engagement.

The Leadership Speaker Series was open to the public with free admission. The turnout varied from Cleveland Heights high school students to Kent community members.

“I’ve gone to two of the five Leadership Speaker Series and this was by far the most interesting,” said junior visual communication design major John Vrhovik. “I liked her attitude and the message she incorporated into her poetry.”

Giovanni closed the night by reading one of her favorite poems, “Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)” and ended with the final words, “I can fly like a bird in the sky.”

Contact Olivia Young at [email protected].