Poet Nikki Giovanni on BLM using their power: ‘They’re not afraid to be themselves’
Exclusive: Nikki Giovanni just released her latest collection, 'Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose' and shares her thoughts on the election, Black Lives Matter and growing older
Nikki Giovanni is one of the most world-renowned and celebrated poets, activists, and literary giants. A pioneer during the Black Arts Movement, her award-winning writings has permeated through the decades, lauding her as the ‘Poet of Black Revolution.’ Throughout her prolific career, the Fisk graduate has authored numerous poetry collections and children’s books.
‘Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose’ is her latest release. The newest collection of poetry is a cross-generational body of work and an extension of her past art as she speaks to the continued injustice in society, the current political climate, and what space a creative holds in these unprecedented times. It is a soul-stirring intimate portrait affirming that the five-time NAACP Image Award winner’s social impact is still unmatched.
With a career spanning more than 50 years, Giovanni’s indelible mark as a cultural icon and the significant effects of her literary works is confirmation; she is an American voice that not only ignited a movement but inspired generations.
Dontaira Terrell: What are your thoughts about the Trump administration alluding to voter fraud and creating a false narrative around the election results?
Nikki Giovanni: I’m surprised, and any sane person has to be a little surprised he has tried to carry this on for so long. Everybody knows [Joe]Biden is the President-elect. He has won the election. If there’s voter fraud, the fraud is the vote for [President Donald] Trump and the people who fraudulently got him elected in 2016. They were trying to do the same thing now, but they were outplayed.
DT: What were your initial thoughts watching the results on election night?
NG: I live in Virginia, and when our polls closed, I said, “Jesus does things in his own way and, as they say, ‘he will not come when you call him, but he will always come on time.'” So, I poured a glass of champagne because I knew Trump would be removed from office.
I also knew the Black community and the Divine Nine were going to come through and do what they had to do. Vice President [Kamala] Harris is an AKA, and we all make mistakes because everybody can’t be a Delta, and I understand that (laughs).
DT: You have given voice to many issues, from racial injustice to the Middle Passage and politics. How do you feel about where we are, and what are your hopes for the future?
NG: I am incredibly proud of Black Lives Matter and the three Black women who founded the movement. I think this next generation is opening up their hearts in a different way. They’re not afraid to be themselves, and that’s incredibly wonderful. They’re not afraid of living their own life. I’m very proud, and I’m glad I lived long enough to see that they’re singing their own song.
DT: Your poem “Make Me Rain” from your new book is about love. What is your definition of love?
NG: Like all poets, I’m always in love. That’s what poets do. That works because we also have the sense to fall out of love. “Make Me Rain” started because I’m a jazz fan, and it is an old jazz tune. I was driving in Roanoke [Virginia] and pulled over to the side of the road and wrote this poem. When you get to be my age, at 77, being in love is helping to take care of somebody, and it’s about being there.
DT: If your entire life was a poem from your catalog, what title would best fit, and why?
NG: “Make Me Rain,” simply because nothing can live without water. We can live without food for a long time. We can do any number of things but what you need to grow is water. Water is everything, and I say that in the poem, water becomes ice, and it becomes snow. You can sit inside and listen to it, and there’s nothing as wonderful as listening to the sound of raindrops. It’s a rhythm that’ll put you right to sleep.
DT: Lastly, what’s next for you in this chapter of life?
NG: I don’t know what comes next for me, but I’m always writing. There is a folder on my computer called the New Book, which at 77 says that I am again changing. I’m learning something new about myself. I’m not afraid of being older, I think it’s a good idea, and I recommend it.
As I’m watching this book grow, I’m laughing because I wonder, “Where will it end up?” I don’t know, but I know it’s growing and that I am the rain that makes it grow.
Dontaira Terrell is a Florida A&M University graduate, Ohio native, and lifestyle journalist. Her work has appeared in countless national mediums, including Shondaland, BET, MTV, VH1, Black Enterprise, and many more. Her career highlights include exclusive interview coverage of celebrities such as Michael B. Jordan, Tyra Banks, Nikki Giovanni, and Russell Westbrook. Currently based in Los Angeles, connect with her on social media @dontairaterrell.
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