University of Rochester

Nikki Giovanni to Speak at the University of Rochester

December 9, 2008

Renowned Poet to present Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address

Editors Note: A press opportunity with Giovanni is scheduled before the lecture, at 4:00 p.m. in the Welles-Brown Room of the Rush Rhees Library.

Nikki Giovanni, poet, writer, educator, and activist, will deliver the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address at the University of Rochester on Friday, Jan. 23, at 6:30 p.m. in Strong Auditorium. Giovanni's talk is free and open to the public.

Dubbed the "Princess of Black Poetry," Giovanni has authored more than thirty books in three decades; by weaving poetry with music and prose with pictures, she served as a strong voice for the black community during the civil rights movement. Her children's book, Rosa, which depicts civil rights hero Rosa Parks, received a Caldecott Medal and reached No.3 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

"We are deeply pleased to be able to present Nikki Giovanni to the Rochester community," says Beth Olivares, co-chair of the College Diversity Roundtable and assistant dean for diversity initiatives in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. "From her early involvement in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), as a member of the Black Arts movement, and throughout her life's work as an activist, poet and teacher, Ms. Giovanni has embodied Dr. King's spirit of speaking hard truths in an often cold world."

Born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni Jr. in Knoxville, Tennessee, Giovanni moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, with her family when she was a child. Giovanni spent many summers in her grandparents' home in Knoxville and attended her grandfather's alma mater, Fisk University. In 1967, after graduation, Giovanni relocated back to Cincinnati, where she organized the first Black Arts Festival and in the following year published her first volume of poetry, Black Feeling, Black Talk. In 1970, Giovanni was named Ebony magazine's Woman of the Year for her contributions to black literature.

Giovanni's more recent work, The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, was a finalist for a 2004 Grammy Award in the Spoken Word category. Giovanni was named a "Living Legend" by The Oprah Magazine, is the recipient of more than 25 honorary degrees, and currently serves as a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University.

The culmination of a week-long celebration of Dr. King's life, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address is sponsored by the College Diversity Roundtable and the Office of the President. The week also includes a poetry slam featuring work by students from Jefferson High School and a non-violence training session for students participating in the Upwards Bound program.