As part of the the University of Wisconsin Multicultural Center’s ongoing festivities of Black History Month, the campus welcomed poet Nikki Giovanni as the celebration’s keynote speaker.
Giovanni, a world-renowned poet, educator and activist within the black community, spoke about black empowerment throughout history and in her own career as a writer Wednesday at Gordon Dining and Event Center.
As February is Black History Month, MSC has celebrated it with themes of Black Joy and getting “black to happiness.”
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Giovanni kicked off the lecture by discussing black history, specifically black women’s history. She also reflected upon the Trump Administration and dealing with prejudice and racism, reminding listeners about the need for self-love.
She also criticized President Donald Trump as a “coward and a fool” and said keeping people a part leads to general divisiveness.
She described black people’s experiences with slavery, and how they were put on ships to America. Black people have been historically left behind, or as Giovanni states “thrown in the water.”
“The first thing [black women] probably understood was ‘sold,’” Giovanni said. “We were forced to have children and those children were taken away from us … We had to find a way to deal with it.”
No one comes from the same language, Giovanni said. She said there is no such thing as a single African language because of the continent’s diversity of backgrounds. From the difficulty of finding a common language, they found a way to cope, she said.
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She spoke about how this history has influenced black joy and advised attendees to embrace themselves as part of finding black joy.
“I’m very proud for black joy because black joy is black will,” she said. “I’m very proud that we are here, working our way through life because that’s all you gotta do.”
But, black people continue to face racism and hatred to this day, Giovanni said.
She told students to hold onto themselves in a prejudiced world.
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“There’s one black person here who would be a friend to a white person and there’s one white person who would be a friend to a black person,” she said. “So, your job is to never let fools keep you from finding a friend.”
On a positive note, she said black women can be a source of brilliance and imagination, especially in the fields of science. Because of black history, Giovanni said she is confident black people are strong enough to handle anything.
Giovanni finished with three short poems about her childhood, her grandmother and civil rights movements and her love of gameshows.