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An Inspirational Woman...

This past Wednesday (February 28) I attended the Nikki Giovanni presentation at Ted Mann Concert Hall. The event, presented by the Office for University Women, was absolutely fantastic. If I had to describe Nikki Giovanni’s performance, only one word comes to mind: inspirational. As an older African American woman who personally knew Rosa Parks, Nikki Giovanni inspired me to not only become more in touch with myself, but also to act on the things I truly care about.

The most amazing part of the Nikki Giovanni’s presentation was the true story of Rosa Parks. She was so attuned to every detail, even in the illustrations. It was important for Rosa to fiddle for a dime because it showed that she was compliant with the laws and rules of the time. I would have never thought about aspects like that. Also, the fact that she personally knew Rosa Parks made me feel the story was very authentic. Growing up, I was one of the people who thought that Rosa Parks was a disgruntled African American passenger who was just tired of sitting on the back of the bus because that is basically what I was taught. I learned in school that there was a positive result to Ms. Parks’ rebellious behavior. Now that I know she merely did not get up out of the seat she was already sitting in, and nobody else needed her seat at the moment, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for her actions on that day. She didn’t make an outrageous aggressive move, but instead, she simply and strongly held her ground.
I also appreciated the respect she received from the community. Although I don’t think when she refused to move from her seat on the bus she was thinking, “Oh, I’m glad it’s me doing this because nobody would back up anyone else,? I do like how the community supported her in solidarity. Like Nikki Giovanni said, I don’t think that Rosa Park’s actions would have had the same effect if she was not backed by the community. I also enjoyed learning that it was indeed women who initiated the bus boycott. It was never brought to my attention in school that a group of women spent all night making signs advocating the boycott. All we learned was that Rosa Parks rebelled and was thrown in jail, and then Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped in.
I also liked how Nikki Giovanni incorporated Emmett Till into her children’s book. Although the children who “read? her book have no idea who Emmett Till is, the fact that Nikki Giovanni so strongly felt she needed to have his name on the newspaper in the illustration shows that she is sincerely devoted to presenting the truth about the whole ordeal. Her story of Emmett Till’s death was eye-opening. Again, in school, all I learned was that Emmett Till was an African American boy who inappropriately grabbed a while girl and was killed for it. I am glad I now know the truth, and I am angry that I have been ignorant for so long.
Nikki Giovanni’s poetry was unlike anything I had ever heard or read before. The elegance was in the wording, although to me, the presentation seemed choppy. My favorite poem was the one called “I am a Pillow? (I think that’s the correct title). Her poetry wasn’t watered down so that things rhymed, sounded pretty, or read to a certain beat. Nikki Giovanni’s poems were choppy, truthful, and real. I really, really liked it. Its crude construction and naked truth and emotion validated the sincerity of her writing. It was like she was writing for herself, because she loves to write, and not because she had to please an audience. I truly respect that.
I now have a great admiration for Nikki Giovanni and all her writing and poetry represents. I am very glad I attended her presentation because it not only opened my eyes to the hidden truth beneath what I was taught, but it also inspired me to know myself better than I do now. There is power in writing, and I feel I have barely scratched the surface in all of my writing classes I have taken. I want to be able to express myself in some way, shape, or form like how Nikki Giovanni expresses herself in her writing and poetry.