By Laina Sweetney
Nikki Giovanni, world-renowned poet, activist and University Distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech, commenced Florida Southern’s 2017 Child of the Sun Distinguished Speakers Serieson Thursday, Feb. 9, in Annie Pfeiffer Chapel. The series brings speakers of national and worldwide acclaim to Florida Southern’s campus every year to delve deeper into fascinating issues, events and ideas of our times. This year’s theme seeks to explore the role that art plays in human experience. Each speaker will take up challenging considerations of how artistic expression responds to the complexity of individual experiences.
As the first speaker of the series, Giovanni addressed an audience of Florida Southern students and members of the Lakeland community in a presentation entitled “An Evening of Poetry, Love and Enlightenment.” She read several poems from her most famous anthologies including “Quilts,” “Deal or No Deal” and “Ego-trippin,” which echoed her own experiences of losing her mother and taking risks.
Giovanni also appropriately addressed African American culture within her lecture. With February being Black History Month, Giovanni took time to discuss the role that her African American heritage plays in her creative process. As an outspoken activist of civil rights and former author of the Black Arts Movement, Giovanni’s poetry carries many recurring motifs within the African American community. During her lecture, she specifically chose to highlight the greatness of African American women.
“Black women are wonderful,” Giovanni said. “There’s really no question about it.”
Before her lecture, Giovanni took time to meet with an intimate group of members of Florida Southern’s English department to share insight about how words and ideas can change the world. When asked to elaborate on what she thinks all young writers should know, she answered simply.
“All young authors must try to read something every day,” she said. “I always like to say, reading is like green vegetables–you just have to have them.”
Although the lecture series is open to the Lakeland community, it is especially valuable for current undergraduate students at FSC. The series provides an avenue for students to glean from a variety of renowned speakers on topics such as race, art, science and politics.
“I think events like these are greatly impactful,” FSC Sophomore English major Jim McKenna said of the Distinguished Lecture Series. “For me, they alert a much broader awareness of the world around me and the speakers provide insight on how I can make meaning from all of that.”
Future speakers in the series will be critically acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair on Tuesday, March 14 and art historian Sarah Lewis on Wednesday, April 12. The lectures are free and open to the public.