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Giovanni was born on July 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee. She is a poet, writer and was a significant influence of the Black Arts movement. In 1960 she enrolled at Fisk University, and in 1967 she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history. Giovanni published her first book of poems in 1968, and it was titled, 'Black Feeling, Black Talk.' Her poems helped define the voice of the African-American people in the 1960s and '70s and continue to connect to this day.
In Nikki Giovanni's poems, 'BLK History Month' and 'Poem for a Lady Whose Voice I Like.
' Both of these poems use the poetic device of point of view, and she uses much metaphor to convey the importance of her topic. In 'BLK History Month' it was the importance of Black history month and in her poem 'Poem for a Lady Whose Voice I Like' is about the empowerment of black women. This correlates with her life that has been dedicated to the fight for the rights and equality of black people.
Giovanni's past experiences as a black woman have made her want to share her works with the world. Giovanni says she has always prided herself in being 'a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English'(Muse.union.edu, 2018). The thing she went through and saw as a child helped her shape into the woman she is. When she was a child, she saw the horrors of segregation. These experiences were a big part of why the children of this time, like Giovanni chose to move away from cities to avoid those types of acts of ignorance.
These terrible circumstances have been retold not only by Giovanni, but many others through other art forms, such as paintings, drawings, and books.
Giovanni's writings are centered on her positive attitude towards oppression rather than the negative that is often associated with it. Giovanni poems are mostly in free-verse where she can share her thoughts and views of the world. Nikki's grandmother died after she finished college which drove her to begin writing poetry. Using it as an outlet for losing someone that she loved, someone who had inspired her spirit for activism. Growing up during the Civil Rights movement encouraged her to put her thoughts as someone who is going through that painful time in history onto paper. Giovanni faced the same racism and oppression that is portrayed in her poetry and can easily be tied to true historical facts of the time.
All of her poems have the same common theme but is expressed through different lenses. In “Black History Month” the metaphors and personification used in the poem mean that if Black History Month is not 'practical' then neither are those things that the poem references. It is also important to explain that the author is speaking to people who oppose Black History Month. This poem is a rebuttal to the argument of 'Black History Month is not practical or necessary.'
Those metaphors also relate how Black History Month impacts the lives of African Americans and People of Color.
The first metaphor, the wind, represents Black History Month and the seeds African Americans. The wind moving the seeds, in the second metaphor, represents how Black History Month moves African Americans to places of confidence and power, places we can flourish and be our true selves; the fertile land.
It is the same situation with the rain, rain being Black History Month encourages the seeds (which are the African American people) to dig into their cultural roots. The sun is older African Americans and People of Color telling the younger generation to love, appreciate and be themselves. They made Black History Month possible and paved the way so that today it is safe for African American people to appreciate our cultural history. They fight for us when we do not appreciate or don't know or don't understand the importance of knowing where we came from. Giovanni coveys how essential it is that we, African Americans know where we came from as a people. It is important not to forget about those who fought for our right to have Black History Month and many other privileges. The end is much clearer which is believed to be intentional, to draw attention to the theme of the poem, Black History Month, and the importance for people to be able to appreciate their history. All of this is made very clear when Giovanni says, 'You have a place in the world, you are valued, and loved and worth it. No matter who you are you are worth it' (Giovanni 13-14).
'Poem for a Lady Whose Voice I Like”the theme of this poem is empowerment. In this poem Giovanni is displaying the strength of black women through the dialogue of a man and a woman. The man is talking negatively towards the woman by telling her she has no talent and is too cocky. She responds, “God created everyone to his pleasings. Giovanni also uses metaphors in this poem, like when the man’s love of food compared to his view of the woman. Throughout out the poem the man is belittling the woman and trying to make her feel less than but it does not work. One of the most quoted lines of this poem is the woman's response to when the man says she is full of herself she says, “show me someone not full of herself and i’ll show you a hungry person” (Giovanni: 20-21). This Quote is so powerful. It shows the strength of black women when faced with hatred and disrespect. Giovanni does a wonderful job in displaying how that even though black women are underappreciated they have the strength of a thousand men and can overcome anything.
Giovanni's ideas and experiences are present in both her poems, 'BLK History Month,' and 'Poem for a Lady Whose Voice I Like.' Giovanni reflects on realities of life to depict the properties of the terrible circumstances she lived in and to describe the lack of respect and appreciation of African-American people. Her endeavors of these times have helped her evolve as a person and as a poet as well. We as a country should learn to respect the difficulty of the civil rights movement on the African- American people. African-Americans were forced to go through tough and trying times, and these experiences left permanent scars on them and their families. Also, her poetry inspired African-Americans to rise and helped push the civil rights movement forward. Her unique sense of writing and creative storytelling in poem form apply to the world on a full scale. Her message in her writings is to keep a positive attitude, maintain hope and faith, and live life with purpose.
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