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Poet, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni speaks at a Women's History Month talk in the Mandela Room on March 19.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Poet/activist urges students to ‘reinvent the future’
March 23, 2015Tweet
Hope for the future comes from today’s youths, Nikki Giovanni said during a visit to Binghamton University on March 19.
“We (professors) are here because we want you to think,” she said. “We want you to reinvent the future.”
An award-winning poet, civil rights activist and English professor, Giovanni spoke to a crowd of students, faculty members and guests at the Mandela Room. During the Women’s History Month event hosted by the Black Student Union, Giovanni talked about the importance of contribution for advancement.
“You have to say to yourself, ‘I have something to contribute,’” Giovanni said, “(and ask yourself): ‘What am I leaving that is going to take the world someplace else?’”
Giovanni said that she sees the creative community as a benefactor to the world. Individuals in that community are the ones running the engine.
“We have to remember that science didn’t do anything that we, in the creative community, didn’t think up first,” she said.
Because of the creative community’s great impact, Giovanni believes that more opportunities should be given to creative individuals. One such opportunity – having NASA send writers to Antarctica.
“We seek Antarctica because Middle Passage is no longer available,” she said, “and Middle Passage is the closest thing we have to space.”
Through the topic of the Middle Passage, Giovanni shifted her focus to African Americans in the United States. She perceives them as highly resilient and strong.
“When they landed here,” she said, “black people were the only people who came to America who had to recreate themselves.”
Giovanni said that although slavery is a shame, the fact that African Americans overcame it is commendable. She also stressed their importance in building the foundation of the United States.
“Without black Americans, America wouldn’t be America,” she said.
However, despite the major contributions of African Americans to the country, discrimination against them is still prevalent in society, which jeopardizes their education and potential success.
Connecting the misuse of money to the unequal distribution of wealth in the United States, she said the widening wealth gap is absurd. “We have talent in the community that is not being used,” she said, “because we’re using money to prevent these youngsters from being a part of us.
“Nobody should be a billionaire,” Giovanni added. “What can you do (with that amount of money)?”
Giovanni also offered her view on other social issues, such as gun possession. Having once taught student Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people and wounded 17 others at Virginia Tech in 2007, she is very aware of the danger of guns.
“I think guns are a bad idea,” she said. “If you think that you’re feeling safe because somebody has a gun, then you’re a fool.”
Giovanni touched upon gay marriage as well, stating that it is nobody’s business who one marries.
“I think gay marriage is a good idea,” she said, “because if you’re crazy enough to get married, you ought to marry anything you want to.”
The subject of domestic abuse hits close to home for Giovanni. Having lived under the roof of a father who would frequently strike her mother, Giovanni urged that such abuse stop, fearing that it will teach sons to beat wives and teach daughters that wives should be beaten.
Abortion is another concern that Giovanni brought up. She advocated that all women are entitled to abortion rights.
“The biggest hypocrisy in the world,” she said, “is the people who are against abortion before capital punishment.”
Giovanni concluded her speech with a reading of her poem, “Ego Trip,” and some parting words about the significance of being mindful of the people around us.
“I think it’s important to learn anything that you can about everybody that you can,” she said. “I don’t see any downside to knowledge.”