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Nikki Giovanni’s Latest Poem: ‘Vote’

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Legend Encourages The Black Vote In 2020 Election

By Curtis Bunn, Urban News Service
A Division of Zenger

Nikki Giovanni is 74 now, a generation removed from the height of her poetic power. But she remains fiery and talented and has a lot on her mind.

            The author of countless poems that center on love and civil rights, Giovanni wants a new president. Just as important to her, she said, is that the black community exercises its right to vote.

            She spoke about a lot Sunday during an event honoring scholar and intellectual W.E.B. DuBois at Clark Atlanta University. But it all came down to voting, which is not surprising considering her background.

            Giovanni is an icon because she penned powerful, self-affirming poems during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., she is most famous for her first book, “Feeling Black, Black Talk” and most noted poem is “Nikki-Rosa,” which is a thoughtful remembrance of growing up in a loving African-American home near Cincinnati.

            She expanded her voice to speak out on injustices, earning 2008 Black Enterprise Legacy Award, among countless other honors along the way. She calls herself “an old lady,” but her commitment to black people and equal rights persists.

            “I don’t care who you vote for,” Giovanni said, “just vote, because there’s not a person on that (debate) stage who hasn’t lied or done something. They all did something. . . against us.

            “But we must make sure they can’t silence us. We must not go (vote) because we don’t like someone. Fannie Lou Hamer. Fannie Lou organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. . . She knew she could be killed. But they didn’t’ murder her. But they did pull her off the bus and beat her and beat her beat her. They tried to scare her. I made a promise to myself that if I am even sort of alive, I will vote. Fannie Lou Hamer took a hell of a beating so I could vote, and so I will. . . and everyone else should, too.”

            She read from her just-written poem that she said she may call “2020” or “Vote.”

It’s not a hug, or a toy at Christmas

It’s not a colored egg at Easter

Or a bunny hopping across the meadow

It’s a vote, saying you are a citizen

Though sometimes it is traveling and sometimes a no.

It can be male of female

It can be right or left

I can disagree

But I am a citizen

should be able to vote from prison

I should be able to vote from the battlefield

I should be able to vote when I get my driver’s license

I should be able to vote when can I purchase a gun

When I’m in the hospital

Or the old folk’s home

Or if I need a ride to the polling place

 I am a citizen

I must be able to vote.

Folks were lynched

Folks were shot.

Folks communities were gerrymander

Folks who believed in the Constitution were lied to

Burned out, bought and sold because

They agreed that all men and women were created equal.

 Folks vote to make us free

It’s not cookies or cake

But it is icing that is so sweet

Good for us, my country tis of thee.

Nikki Giovanni, Why I Vote

“Our people were not uneducated, they were un-degreed.”

“When you think about this country, we made it.”

“People ask me about Black Lives Matter and I say I love them because I do.”

A proud graduate of Fisk University

Nikki Giovanni books

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