Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni is not just one of the world’s greatest poets, with a legacy of profound and funky work, but a scholar with deep community interests and focuses. As a Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg VA since 1987, she trains future leaders in the literature of the mother tongue. As the author of over 30 books, she shares the beauty of poetic language with readers far and wide, having done so for over four decades. The above photo is drawn from the session for her first volume of work, Black Feeling, Black Talk, published in 1968, the year she turned twenty-five.
Unlike many poets, however, Giovanni, right, has long had an interest in reaching children. Her first book of verse for them, Spin a Soft Black Song, was published a mere three years after her first volume, in 1971, two short years after giving birth to her only child, Thomas Watson Giovanni.
Her latest work, which she edited, continues her aim of making poetry come alive for young listeners and readers, albeit in a contemporary way. Hip-Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat presents compositions by rap artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, the Sugarhill Gang, and Stetsasonic along with classics by Claude McKay, Sterling Brown, Maya Angelou, and, of course, Nikki Giovanni. Children can read along in the profusely illustrated text while an accompanying CD presents most of the pieces in audio form, some of them read by the original poet. For me, the highlight had to be hearing Langston Hughes, performing his own poems, like “Dream Boogie” and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”
Nikki Giovanni has had a long and varied career, appropriately honored with accolades from admirers as diverse as TV host Oprah Winfrey, whose hailed her as one of twenty-five “Living Legends”; to singer Teena Marie, who name-checked Giovanni on her 1981 hit, “Square Biz”; to biologist Robert Baker who, in 2004—no joke—named a West Ecuadoran bat he discovered, three years earlier, after her.Micronycteris giovanniae, which means meaning “Giovanni’s small night flyer,”looks much like the cuddly fellow above. “I enjoy reading her poetry and I come from the Deep South, so I really can appreciate what she has done for race relations and equality,” the professor explains.
Nikki Giovanni is the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, July 31st, at 2 pm ET.
You can hear her ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.
The cover of Etienne Louis is a ball made of polished stainless steel from cast aluminum – the foot is taken and the surface of aluminum peaks occupied. All aluminum parts are polished. The upper half of the sphere is removed, your under the water tank to be removed also.
Uh, yeah, right. No price has been given yet, but is any cost too much to both sooth your friends’ taste buds and terrorize them?
When Barack Obama spoke last week, above, on the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., the president observed that “the Cambridge Police acted stupidly.”
That quote quickly became the one most widely reproduced, as I knew it would, eclipsing the visibility of almost anything he’d said in his preceding press conference, ostensibly about health care reform.
I remember the exact moment I heard Obama utter those words. It was as though someone had played a horrible chord. While the statement was the closest he apparently went to expressing any sort of a feeling about the Gates incident, I immediately knew those words wouldn’t go down well at the police station. As most certainly realize by now, they didn’t, and Obama had to subsequently retract them. “I could’ve calibrated those words differently,” he said, right.
Two aspects of this, however, are absolutely fascinating to me:
Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, above, holds a unique, negative distinction in the history of NONFICTION, the hour-long radio show I’ve been doing every week at WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM since 2003: He was, when he appeared on the broadcast in January 2004, and still is, the tardiest guest to ever actually get on air, strolling in literally about five minutes before I opened my mic. (I typically ask guests to be an hour early for our live show.)
Of course, these days, Dr. Gates has notoriety of a wholly different magnitude, as a result of being arrested, a little over a week ago, Thursday, July 16, 12:44 pm, by Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge MA police department, inside Dr. Gates own home. (By the Blackest of coincidences, it was the same day President Obama would address the NAACP, in celebration of their 100th anniversary.) After a passerby saw Gates trying to break into his own yellow, clapboard house—the front door was damaged and stuck—the woman called the police and, after a verbal confrontation in Gates’ home, he was led out of his own door, above, and off of his own porch, in handcuffs.
Supposed the conflict had escalated, and Gates had been beaten, wounded, shot, or killed? How would this have then played out? Would it have been just another parade of somber white faces and furious, stunned Black ones? How would the story of what had happened have been told, and by whom?
I wonder how that Black cop, in the foreground, above, feels. Bet it’s not a party for him, either.
Did you know that Black cops are nine times more likely to be shot by a fellow white officer than a white cop is?
He was late to my interview. But better late than never.
Dr. Henry Louis Gates is the guest today on this repeat edition of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, July 24th, at 2 pm ET.
You can hear his ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.
How I spent my summer vacation: Dr. Henry Louis Gates’ mugshot
As the final questioner at last night’s press conference in support of Barack Obama’s health care plan, The Chicago Sun-Times‘ Lynn Sweet asked the President for his thoughts on the recent arrest of Harvard University’s Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, above. As certainly anyone at all knows by now, Dr. Gates, a few days earlier, had suffered the indignity of being arrested for the crime of being in his own home, in a case now widely being seen as one of so-called “racial profiling.”
President Obama, right, gave a nice, reasonable answer, of the kind at which he is, arguably, flawless. He cracked a joke or two. He appealed to a sense of fairness that the blindingly white press pool, no doubt, possesses as fair and balanced journalists. He said he didn’t know “what role race played” in Gates’ mistreatment, but then cited “a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately,” adding, for certainty. “That’s just a fact.”
He said that “the Cambridge Police acted stupidly,” that quote being the one which, subsequently, was the most widely reproduced, and, to this writer, the one that came the closest to expressing any sort of a feeling or passion about the incident on his part.
What he did not say, however, or speak to, was the irony of what I had immediately noticed, soon as word of Gates’ arrest hit the wires: The scholar’s detainment had occurred mere hours before Obama gave his address, right, at the NAACP’s 100th anniversary convention. There, in the grand ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in New york City, the nation’s first Black president had hailed the organization’s history and astounding struggle, efforts which, in his own words, had directly led to his being “here tonight as the 44th President of the United States of America.”
Kotobukiya’s new 1/8-scale Black Widow, above, from Marvel’s Mighty Avengers comics, is the latest in the Japanese master figurine maker’s series of bishoujo or “pretty girl” superheroines. Based on an original design by illustrator Shunya Yamashita, and sculpted by Yu Ishii, the Soviet superspy’s black second skin
accentuates every curve and the long lines of her legs, which end with stiletto heeled boots. Hugging Natasha Romanoff’s waist is a stylish belt adorned with her red hourglass symbol, and on her arms are golden wristbands. As the sexy spy whips around to look behind her with a pistol at the ready, her intricately carved hair floats in the air behind her. Black Widow stands provocatively atop a specially-designed base.
Constructed from PVC and ABS plastics, 7 3/5 inches tall, Black Widow arrives in an stylish window box, ready to whirl into action. Only $59.99, direct.
You know hip-hop is in a quandary when rappers with fortunes as disparate as Jay-Z’s (“D.O.A.: Death of Auto-Tune”) and Black Moon’s Buckshot’s, above, are crying for profound artistic change. With the addition of the culture’s grand oak, KRS-One, to the fray, however, we now have a call for reform with true moral weight and undiffused authority.
That siren sounds loudly on KRS and Buckshot’s lead single, “Robot,” from their upcoming album, Survival Skills. Against director Todd Angkasuwan’s sparse digital vistas, the video portrays the duo as last men standing in a music world gone wholly fake, one filled with genetically spliced rappers and synthetic video dancers. Keeping with their theme of order-obeying, mechanical men, there’s even a brief cameo from Optimus Prime, though, thankfully, none from Skids and Mudflap. Check it out, below, and then peep their brief “making of” feature.