April 06, 2009
To foster a community dedicated to academic excellence and
social responsibility as well as academic discourse beyond the
classroom, St. John’s brings engaging speakers from a range of
disciplines to its Academic Lecture Series.
April 2, Yolande Corneilia “Nikki” Giovanni---world-renowned poet,
writer, commentator, activist and University Distinguished
Professor of Writing and Literature at Virginia Tech University ---
shared with the St. John’s community the inspiration behind some of
her most well-known poems.
Over 200 St. John’s students, faculty and administrators gathered
for the University’s Academic Lecture Series, to hear Giovanni
recite poems on topics ranging from the heroes of the civil rights
movement to experiences of love and loss in her life.
“I believe it’s important, that as we come to the end of Women’s
History month, we talk about Rosa Parks,” said Giovanni. “CNN once
asked me who I think is the most important person in the 20th
century - I said certainly Ms. Rosa Parks. Everyone needs to be
educated about Rosa Parks, so I turned her into a dance,” recalled
Giovanni, before she performed her poem “The Rosa Parks.”
lecture turned to the theme of loss as Giovanni read one of her
more personal poems, “I am in Mexico,” a poem she wrote about her
dying mother. Giovanni then shifted to newer material about love
including her poem “Deal or No Deal,” written for her creative
writing class, in which she fantasizes about being a contestant on
her favorite television show of the same name.
“The lecture with Nikki Giovanni was a really great experience,”
said senior Tobin College of Business student and Vice President of
Student Government, John Kelly, “I first heard about her in the
wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. I was very impressed by her
presence, wealth of knowledge and ability to deliver her message to
all of us here at St. John’s. I particularly enjoyed how she was
able to break apart the individual pieces of the civil rights
movement into instances where regular people chose to take heroic
Giovanni remains as committed as ever to civil rights and equality.
Insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has remained
a prominent voice in the black community. Her poems, books and
essays are about the power of the individual to make a difference
in oneself and in the lives of others.
Before the reading ended, the Grammy-nominated poet treated the
audience to one of her most famous poems, “Ego Tripping (there may
be a reason why).” “I am so happy she read ‘Ego Tripping,’” said
senior English major Ludine Pierre. “I’m taking a women’s writing
class this semester, so it is surreal to meet the woman who wrote
the poems that I am studying. It’s a huge honor to have her
In addition to the Academic Lecture Series, this program was
Friends of the Library, Campus Activities Board,
LEADership Development, Student Government Inc., Black
Alumni Association and the President’s
Multicultural Advisory Committee.
For more information on upcoming lectures at St. John’s, visit the
Lecture Series web site.