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Nikki Giovanni wants St. Louis to know she loves you, and that you’re great

Nikki Giovanni. Poet, Educator & Best-Selling Author.
Nikki Giovanni said she's bringing several messages to St. Louis.

Nikki Giovanni recently retired from teaching, but the renowned American poet is busier than ever between writing and speaking engagements.

Despite Giovanni’s best efforts to slow down, the “princess of Black poetry” will visit St. Louis to deliver the opening day keynote at the St. Louis Racial Equity Summit on Thursday. Giovanni told St. Louis on the Air that she is determined to make it to St. Louis because of her love for the city.

“I want St. Louis to know I love them. I love what the people have been trying to do,” Giovanni said. “I wanted to come [to St. Louis] to be a part of reminding this great city that you are still a great city.”

Giovanni’s career left her mark in the worlds of poetry, education and history. One common thread has always been social justice — another is making her grandmother proud.

“I feel that my duty and responsibility is to the ancestors. I will always feel that my grandmother is there. My audience is my grandmother and everything else comes from that,” Giovanni said. “My duty is to make her proud, and every time I [speak] that’s what I’m trying to do.”

After publishing her first book of poetry in 1968, Giovanni’s writing and voice became a resource for generations grappling with social ills and racial identity. She noted that her students have helped her realize her relevance among younger generations. Her work is still attracting new fans: For example, a 2022 YouTube video of her 1971 interview of James Baldwin has been viewed more than 85,000 times.

“I’m glad to know that they’re still reading somebody like me,” she said. “My conversation with James Baldwin. The youngsters are reading and seeing both sides in a very good way. And I think that’s quite an honor.”

For more with Nikki Giovanni including her thoughts on Tupac, Kanye West, and how history can be told through the blues and fried chicken, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or by clicking the play button below.

Nikki Giovanni wants St. Louis to know she loves you, and that you’re great

Related Event

What: St. Louis Racial Equity Summit 2023
When: Nov. 9-11
Where: America’s Center Convention Complex, 701 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production intern. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."