"The Living Truth"
N I K K I G I O V A N N I
by Latorial D. Faison
|w/Poet Nikki Giovanni|
|w/Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin, Founding Director|
of the JMU Furious Flower Poetry Center
|Members of the Wintergreen Writers Collective|
Scholars & Writers: Dr. Daryl C. Dance,
Dr. Maryemma Graham & Dr. Trudier Harris
"Truth is on its way..."
|2019 Furious Flower Fellows Late Night Discussion|
(Gwendolyn Dixon, Geoffrey Hicks, Cleemence Mbabazi,
Julie Isman, Dave Wooley, Judy Juanita)
Daily the fellows analyzed, synthesized, and contextualized Nikki Giovanni's poetry and discussed their generational, contemporary relevance and historical framework. Groups presented lesson plans on incorporating Giovanni’s life and work in the classroom. Everyday was a moment of truth where we considered the underlying themes throughout Giovanni's work based on both life experiences and movements.
We knew that to have occupied the same space as Giovanni for a week and to have heard her speak and read her poetry, to be blessed with the sobering honesty of her prolific voice, that was the single most rewarding experience we could bring from this mountaintop to students, poetry lovers, literary enthusiasts, to family and friends everywhere, and to our own selves. It was our moment of truth, and we knew exactly where we were, what to do with it, and how very canonizing and transformative it would be; we would never be the same.
"I turned myself
in this medium,
to both receive it
and give it."
-Dr. Joanne Gabbin
|2019 Furious Flower Fellows Meet, Greet & Get Acquainted|
(Angel Dye, Amy Alvarez, Britny Codera, Maurisa Li -A-Ping & Carmin Wong)
|Giovanni shares with 2019 Fellows|
"The imperial we"
|w/Dr. Joanne Gabbin,|
Nikki Giovanni & Dr. Ginny Fowler
"Love requires balance and trust."
Author of Bicycles: Love Poems
|Reading at Furious Flower 2019|
The Wintergreen Writers Collective, a group of women writers and artists organized by Dr. Joanne Gabbin when Giovanni came to teach at Virginia Tech, also graced us with their presence at the 2019 Seminars. Gabbin, who has become close friends with Nikki Giovanni over the years, realized that Giovanni could benefit from a community of sisters who were artists and writers; this sisterhood has helped to give Giovanni staying power. She came to VA Tech in 1985 and never left.
|Giovanni & Some of the Wintergreen Women|
|Giovanni at Friday Night's JMU Reading|
"Once you get the white man out of your book,
the whole world opens up."
|The amazing phenomenon:|
actress, writer, vocalist, quilt artist Val Gray-Ward
"You are the author of it,
but it no longer belongs to you."
|2019 Fellows Toast to Nikki Giovanni at the 150 Franklin Street Art Gallery|
(Faison w/Adrienne Christian, Giovanni, Marta Werbanowska & Tabitha Morrison)
|2019 Fellows in Discussion|
Ruth Terry Walden and Kendra Bryant
"Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me, and before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free."
I grew up singing in a small Baptist church known as Bryant Baptist Church in Southampton County, Virginia, and I credit my late grandmother, Shirley Lee Turner Williams (1932-2008) for that experience, for the spiritual beauty, richness, education, and necessity of the "Black Church" experience. It is a part of who I am and ever will be. Giovanni's work is anointed with themes from the traditional Black Church experience, namely spirituals. Drs. Gabbin, Crawford, Rambsy, Lordi, Fowler, and even Giovanni, herself, made mention of how the poetry exists musically, how it was built with the bricks of the Southern Black church as well as any Harlem Renaissance jazz spot. Negro spirituals never leave you, and because they never left me, I helped usher The Giovanni Class, in . . .
(below Furious Flower Fellows sing Negro Spirituals-Gospel at Furious Flower 2019;
amongst them Jennifer Dukes, Melody Pannell, Judy Juanita, Angel Dye & Faison)
|"After singing Amazing Grace"|
"Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come. Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."
from Giovanni's "Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)"
I was born in the Congo
I was born in the Congo
I walked to the fertile crescent
and built the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough
that a star that only glows
every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine
I am bad
"A poem is a prayer."
Throughout the week, The Giovanni Class had space, time, and opportunity to devote to reading, analyzing, and discussing poems like "Ego Tripping" and many other iconic poems by Giovanni. We were eager to share how her poems made us feel, where they led us, how they changed us, and how they propelled us out of and into various places in our positionality and minds. Some testified of the profound effects a Giovanni poem had on them when they first read it.
Since its inception, the Furious Flower Poetry Center has been committed to "ensuring the visibility, inclusion, and critical consideration of Black poets in American letters, as well as in the whole range of educational curricula." Furious Flower, given its name from lines in a poem by Pulitzer Prize winner and former US Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, "The Second Sermon on the Warpland" (1968), aims "to cultivate an appreciation for poetry among students of all levels . . . to support and promote Black poets at all stages of their careers and to preserve the history of Black poets for future generations."
|w/Emily Lordy, Vanderbilt University|