Nikki Giovanni was born in 1943 in Knoxville, Tenn. An award-winning author and poet, she has lectured to packed audiences around the world. In 1971 she had a gold record for recording Truth is on its Way with a gospel album featuring one of her poems. Lyrics from her 1960’s album Ego-Tripping remain in the hearts and minds of many to this day. I asked her where the idea came from. “It was really written for a little girl. I almost hate to say it because little boys like it too.
I really got tired of hearing all the little girl games, such as Little Sally Walker. You get so sick of that crap. And they were always turning to the East and Turning to the West. It was tiresome.” For those who want to become writers, Giovanni provides many tips in And Still We Rise. One is: If you wait you will find what you are good at. Waiting is like prayer. It is action. You prepare and prepare. Giovanni teaches writing at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, VA.
In the 1960s Nikki Giovanni’s poem, Ego-Tripping, became such a hit that the hand-clapping beat and gutsy lyrics stuck in my heart. I was certain Giovanni was a name of an African prince, certain that Nikki had assumed that name during the decade when name changing was common for those of African descent. Everyone looked the other way when my grandmother said, “that’s an Italian name.” After Nikki and I became friends, I asked about her African name. “African? That’s my family name. It’s Italian.”
Read more about Nikki Giovanni in our exclusive interview, only available in my book, And Still We Rise.