Saturday, April 08, 2006

Nikki Talks About Tupac Shakur

Way back in the day I would have my ears attached to sound. And the only sound that mattered to me was coming from WDAS-AM or DAS-FM. In the middle of the seventies there was a mixture of music, poetry, and the willingness to try something new. Honorable mention, WHAT-AM, no disrespect intended.

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Nikki Giovanni was one of my poetical radicals that woke a few brain cells up. Between her and The Last Poets (who were so fierce that people spoke in whispers about how they was censored due to the visuals they would put in your head.) Poets can do stuff like that.

Oh, and my main source of infusion, Mr. Gil Scott-Heron working with Brian Jackson. Love and peace to them all.

Today I guess they would be called rappers. That would be incorrect. They are/were poets. With the exception of The Last Poets, there was no women hating 24/7 bursting from their lips. The Last Poets, well you have to read that book that was out a few years ago to get their history. I only heard what was on the radio and they are cool with me.

Fast forward 35 years. Nikki Giovanni. I always have to say her full name. It is a title, an honorific, a declaration that this ain't no butt-cheeked hussy twitching for gold but a real grown woman-folk. If I want to be casual then maybe Dr. Giovanni.

Well, Nikki Giovanni came to Pasadena, to no less a place than CalTech. I was tore-up tired from work and classes but this was not to be missed unless I had both my legs busted and couldn't get into a motor wheelchair. I had to see her. My teenage self had to see her.

This was during Black History month. I wanted to record the whole thing but CalTech made it very clear that there was to be no recording of any kind. To be fair, I understood. She would be giving the speech, with variations around the country. Plus they had people walking up and down the isle. But from a historical standpoint it was a doggone shame she wasn't recorded.

Grievous. Simply Grievous.

Dr. Giovanni was hot about Coretta funeral, pissed about how Coretta was being disrespected and pleased how one of Malcolm's daughter's handled herself. Straight-up angry at a certain occupant from 1600 Pennsylvania avenue's attendance. The one that didn't shoot that man.

There was laughter, head-shaking, hand-waving, hoots, affirmations and “Naw, she didn't say that!” We were on the porch, at the picnic, in our living rooms with ourselves without filters or censure for being “ethnic”. We sat and listen as the griot talked and filled our minds with possibilities, as she had always done. Tell us our stories and of the ones to come.

She talked of many things, especially the children's book she wrote about Mrs. Parks. How she knew Mrs. Parks and spent time with her. Nikki Giovanni educated the young ones on how a white merchant would take money from a black customer without either one touching the other.

Like I said, I couldn't record the program. Well I could have but I didn't want to get kicked out of the auditorium. However, when the official program ended and she took a few question from the audience I said to hell with it – had to go for it.


  1. Nikki Giovanni is amazing! You're lucky to have seen her, i'd give anything for that chance!

  2. Yeah, it was way cool. I've always had respect for her but even more now because of how she handled the situation at her university when that gunman shots up the place.

    Her response to the grieving audience was electric.