Nikki Giovanni closed her speech on October 23rd as she rolled her left sleeve and showed off her “Thug Life” tattoo. There was no denial that she could reach and inspire any dynamic, old or young.
Nikki Giovanni took no prisoners in whipping college students into literary and intellectual shape at the Michael D. Rose Theatre of the University of Memphis. An Evening with Nikki Giovanni was hosted by the University of Memphis NAACP chapter and allowed the acclaimed poet and author to speak on Human by the Grace of God: A View of Diversity. Giovanni spent a portion of her allotted time to mother young people into viewing themselves as the leaders of America.
“You have something more to give. Memphis needs a change. Tennessee needs a change. That’s your job-change it,” Giovanni asserted.
Young Americans have been the focus of political and historical conversations especially since 2012 when youth elected President Barack Obama in heavy numbers. It seems that youth were finally using their vote and voice to wean themselves from their parent’s way of politics since the 1960s.
Today’s society is riddled with images of vanity and greed, something many media outlets say attract the 18-30 population. But Dr. Giovanni confirmed greatness inside Memphis college students.
“You’re wonderful. And that doesn’t mean you’re a King or Queen, but you’re wonderful…and that works,” said Giovanni.
A Tennessee native, Dr. Giovanni swayed the crowd with priceless wisdom and some of her famous poems including “Note to the South: You Lost” and “Ego Tripping”, a crowd favorite according to the robust sound of cheers.
Yet, Giovanni didn’t just rock the college crowd in her bosom of inspiration and appeasement. She demanded that college students explore the entire world in a way to pay homage to their ancestors who were not afforded such opportunities.
“You know what bothers me about colored kids? Most of y’all don’t have a passport,” asserted Giovanni. “You don't go to college to get a job; you go to gain knowledge. You owe it to your ancestors to do the things they couldn't do and go places they couldn't go. Get your passport so we can send you somewhere.”
Giovanni told a story about her grandmother who had worked multiple jobs solely to send her granddaughter to a summer camp that didn’t have hot water. On a recent trip to Africa while Giovanni was taking a shower in a hotel without hot water, she was reminded of her grandmother and realized how much she had sacrificed just so Giovanni could experience more than her family.
Giovanni expressed her passion for Hip-Hop and how she fell in love with Tupac, a legendary rapper who poetically rhymed about politics, black power, and his infamous “Thug Life” in the 80’s and 90’s, but was slain in 1996 at the age of 25.
“I loved Tupac. He was a thug, but he spoke the truth, and he was killed for speaking the truth,” said Giovanni. “Young people listened to him, but the world wasn’t ready for him so they killed him on a Friday. You know, they killed another thug on a Friday and he rose on Sunday.”
Giovanni is an adjunct professor at Virginia Tech in the African American Studies Department. She is also an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a life member of the NAACP. She encouraged students to proceed with getting active in the NAACP to start effecting change in their communities.
“I know you have your voter ID cards. Get your passport and get a lifetime membership in NAACP and start learning. Start working.”
For the next three weeks, TheProReport will present “Youth Matters”, current events and policies that millennials find important. In hopes of raising awareness of how important youth activism is in today’s world, TheProReport will feature an event, individual or organization that has sought to highlight progressive activism from college students. The goal is to approach all issues such feminism, civil rights, students’ rights, etc., with a potentially portraying the significance of involvement in such matters.
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