« Race Exhibit | Main | Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love »

We must change our time, so that we can be the change we want to see in our world

“For you see, to be a man of your time in the 1700’s, you sold men into slavery. To be a man of your time in the 1800’s: You fought a war that you said was about rights, but it was only about your right to keep slaves. To be a man of your time in the 1930’s, you donned a brown shirt and knocked on the doors of Jewish people, sending them to their death. To be a man of your time in the 1950’s you passed ‘black laws,’ laws of segregation. And to be a man of your time in the beginning of time, you stood in the square asking to ‘Free Barabbas.’ No one should be a man of their time, and thank God Rosa wasn’t a woman of her time; she was a woman of the future.?


On Wednesday, February 28th 2007 I went to see Nikki Giovanni at the Ted Mann Concert Hall. I went with my mother Barbara, my father Jerry, and my good friend Melinda. I really didn't know what to expect from the lecture, I had read up on Giovanni and her beautiful poems and thought - well this will be a great experience. By the time I left and as I am reliving the evening I must say it was more than an once-in-a-lifetime experience; it was inspirational, it was painful, and it was full of reflection, heartfelt passion and amazing words. I sat in complete rapture with Giovanni while she talked of spending time with Rosa Parks and Corretta Scott King, two women who have I come to admire and respect tremendously over the years.

The highlight of my evening was when Giovanni spoke on the excuse a lot of people make as to being “a person of one’s time.? I have been given this same excuse with my father and other such figures in my life, “oh, give him a break – he is a product of his environment.? Or, “he is just a man of his time.? Not until tonight had I heard such a painful, but passionate rebuttal to this weak argument of social injustice. Giovanni said to be a man of your time in the 1700’s, you sold men into slavery. To be a man of your time in the 1800’s: You fought a war that you said was about rights, but it was only about your right to keep slaves. To be a man of your time in the 1930’s, you donned a brown shirt and knocked on the doors of Jewish people, sending them to their death. To be a man of your time in the 1950’s you passed ‘black laws,’ laws of segregation. And to be a man of your time in the beginning of time, you stood in the square asking to ‘Free Barabbas.’ No one should be a man of their time, and thank God Rosa wasn’t a woman of her time; she was a woman of the future.? I was stunned and tears ran down my face. I even get goose bumps reading this to myself. How true it is that this simple statement is that one was a product of that time period, has been used to excuse millions of deaths due to social injustice!

I absolutely loved the lecture and I thought Giovanni was so personable and warm. My mother even my father said that they enjoyed the night and I know it is one that I will never forget. Growing up, I wasn't introduced to strong Women of Color, especially writers and I have always been so anxious to search them out and try to use them as role models for my hectic schedule that is my life, and so I came away with the wish to be so passionate about my life and work like Giovanni is. I know that she didn’t start being an activist so that one day she could stand up before us and talk about her pain and experiences and that gives me hope. Seeing Giovanni talk about her experiences for what they are, gave me the inspiration to know that I can get through my days, even if I have to live them day-by-day. God will give me strength and I know that I am fighting for a cause that I believe wholeheartedly in – social justice.