Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Nikki Giovanni inspires Washburn with her honesty on current social issues

Giovanni opens her speech with a reference to the “Wizard of Oz” movie stating, “We aren’t in Kansas anymore Toto.” Giovanni held an open and honest discussion on social issues plaguing America. (Aja Carter)

Nikki Giovanni, a renowned poet and activist, brings honesty and humor to social and political issues.

Giovanni was invited to Washburn March 7, to touch on WUmester’s theme of community and belonging. Giovanni spent the day speaking with students, staff and faculty on issues surrounding the world as of today. Her honesty and sense of humor shed light on these issues and brought understanding to topics not often discussed.

“Her work challenges us to embrace diversity and work toward a more equitable future for all,” said President JuliAnn Mazachek.

Giovanni is highly recognized for her work receiving countless awards and honors. She has made a name for herself through writing books, poetry, essays and activism work.

Here are a few topics Giovanni touched on:

First off, Giovanni explained how it was requested that she speak on unity, which she found to be a lack of.

President JuliAnn Mazachek invites Nikki Giovanni, renowned poet and activist, to speak on community and belonging. The event was hosted March 7 with this year’s WUmester theme in mind, in hopes students would have discussions on the topic. (Aja Carter)

“I know that in looking at one of the things that I was requested to do is to talk about unity, of which there is none, so there’s no point in me talking about what don’t exist,” Giovanni said.

She went back into the history of America bringing up the lack of unity during the Civil War.

“We had a Civil War to stop people from being crazy and everybody acts like ‘was there a civil war?’… it wasn’t a civil war, of course it was [the] Civil War, but it was a lot of people killed for no damn reason because they were wrong. And if somebody just happened to mention to the south, ‘Hey you guys were fucking wrong,’” Giovanni said.

Essentially, the question of unity in America has been in the air for years as countless wars and inequalities because of race have proven otherwise. Even now, many minority groups are still discriminated against and oppressed in society.

“It’s a bad idea to buy and sell people. It’s a bad idea, whether you call them slaves or whether you call them prostitutes. It’s a bad idea,” Giovanni said. “You don’t want to be sold. I know even at my age I never worry about being hungry and cold… because I figure there’s always a corner I can stand on. It’s not a good idea, but it’s better than that.”

Giovanni also brought up the discussion of prostitution and the reasons some chose that path. She described that many would rather sell their bodies to create a better life for themselves, their families and their children. The key note here is understanding the decisions people make due to their circumstances rather than ridiculing them.

“We know that we want a better life for all of us…if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want that for her. I would want her to come to Washburn. I would want her to get an education… And how do I do that? If I have to stand on the corner, that’s the price I pay. And it’s none of your business how I paid for my child to get her education because it was more important to me to stand there than to have her standing there,” Giovanni said.

She expressed the importance of recognizing other people’s truths and why they make the decisions they do.

While on campus, Giovanni also spoke with students directly with an open talk in the Union. Students asked her questions involving her thoughts on the Black community and politics.
(Aja Carter)

Another truth she mentioned was one of the Black community and how people want to feel sorry for Black people. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on segregation and how it was difficult for Black people. To Giovanni, the Black community would’ve been happy had White people “left us alone and hadn’t been lynching us and bombing our churches.”

Giovanni asked what we are offering to the world and for many it’s hate. She spoke on the creation of the criminal justice system as a form of such hatred.

“It created the criminal system and it also helped white men. But it also gave them something to hate somebody to be better than and don’t worry, you can be a racist because we’ll get you a job in Leavenworth and we’ll put black men in there and you can beat them up,” Giovanni said.

The poet also touched on immigration and the individuals looking for a chance at a better life.

“All they want to do is come here to the United States because they believe as Black Americans do also, that all men and women are created equal,” Giovanni said. “They believe that they might have a right to a life if they could just get here and our response is the governor of Texas.”

Greg Abbott, Texas governor, showed support for the tactics in Eagle Pass to deter immigration. One of those tactics being razor wire as a barrier between the Rio Grande River and Shelby Park.

Continuing her speech, Giovanni began to discuss the importance of voting, especially for younger people, as a way to control the government. She doesn’t believe that we have the right not to vote.

“…if you don’t use your voice, it’s like any other war, you’ll lose it,” Giovanni said.

The audience gives Giovanni a standing ovation. Many were inspired and educated after listening to Giovanni’s view on the world. (Aja Carter)

Giovanni finished up her discussion with a few more points including one of NASA and the LGBTQ+ community. She finds that the exploring of the galaxy is important and believes that there are other life forms out there. Giovanni explained that the transgender community could help people understand different life forms as they identify as they see fit for themselves.

“It’s the transgenders right now who are saying ‘I can name myself. I can be whatever gender I want to be, I can make that change…” Giovanni said. “What do you care that somebody doesn’t want to be a man or somebody doesn’t want to be a woman? What’s it to you?”

Ending the discussion Giovanni encouraged the audience to live for themselves and to be sure not to let the world change them. She described that some things that don’t pertain to or affect individuals personally in which case those things should be left alone.

Her final advice was a simple one, “Life is a good idea. You should enjoy it.”

Edited by LeSha’ Davis

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Aja Carter
Aja Carter, Editor-in-Chief Washburn Review
Hello, my name is Aja! I am a senior mass media major with a concentration in journalism and the Editor-in-Chief of the Washburn Review. I'm originally from Virginia, but I've lived in a couple of other states. I really enjoy writing, music, and spending time with my family. Outside of school and reporting for Student Media, I volunteer at my church, Light of the World Christian Center.
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