Archive for Friday, September 3, 1999


September 3, 1999


Poet and essayist Nikki Giovanni spoke Thursday night at Kansas University on a variety of issues.

In a style unapologetic and at times humorous, poet, essayist and lecturer Nikki Giovanni captivated a Kansas University audience Thursday night while tackling issues such as racism and drugs.

"One of the things we ought to do in this next century is leave the racism aside," she said. "We didn't need it in the last one and we sure don't need it in the next."

Giovanni, a leader in the black arts movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, also said the world needs better human beings.

"I hate people who hit squirrels (with their cars)," she said, making the audience laugh. She added that men who kill small animals for fun are likely to be violent in the home.

"And for all the women in the audience, you may not like this, but if he hits a possum, he'll hit you. You have to pay attention to little things like that."

About 700 people attended Giovanni's talk in the Lied Center. The event's sponsors included the National Council of Negro Women, KU's Student Senate, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and the Emily Taylor Women's Resource Center.

Giovanni, 56, is a professor at Virginia Tech, where she teaches creative writing.

"I'll ask my students, 'Do you think it's easy for blacks to get into college?' And my white students say, 'Oh, they have it so easy.'"

"And then I ask, "Where are all these black students that have it so easy?'"

She said 6 percent of Virginia Tech's students are black.

Giovanni also criticized those who have hundreds of millions of dollars and build lavish homes, while others in society live homeless.

"People say, 'Well, Nikki, they earned it.' I don't think so."

Giovanni also said it was "hypocrisy" that so many people are concerned about drug use in the inner city, but look the other way when "the suburban housewife is taking Valium because she is bored."

She also told audience members they should take risks in life, and use their talents.

"If we have any (basket)ball players here, you know what I'm talking about," she said.

"People say there's more to life than basketball, but for you there isn't. If you didn't have a talent, you wouldn't be a Jayhawk.

"People don't like to hear it, but it's true."

Giovanni's fee to talk at KU was $15,000, KU student body president Korb Maxwell said.

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is

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