2020-21 Younes and Soraya Nazarian Equity & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series concludes with celebrated poet.
“There is no such thing ... as ‘writer’s block.’ It’s that you don’t know anything. So if you can’t write something it’s because you have not read enough,” asserted esteemed poet Nikki Giovanni in the final installment of the 2020-21 Younes and Soraya Nazarian Equity & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series celebrating “women revolutionaries.” Giovanni, author of over 30 works for both adults and children, has proven she has read and knows quite a lot, but she’s not finished yet: “Because there’s always something else to learn,” she acknowledged.
The event began with Giovanni reading a selection of poems, many from her most recent collection “Make Me Rain.” Reflecting on these works, she shared thoughts on a range of topics: from the recent discovery of an ancient city in Egypt; to the “cowardly” insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6; to the influence of her contemporaries, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, John Lewis and other leaders of the civil rights movement; to the potential for life on Mars. (Giovanni is a self-described “space freak.”)
For the second half of the event, Equity & Justice Institute Founding Director Derric J. Johnson and Crossroads faculty Abby Chew and Hya Young—who is retiring after 30 years of teaching at Crossroads and to whom the event was dedicated—joined Giovanni in conversation. Giovanni praised Stacy Abrams and the Black Lives Matter movement as new thought leaders in the global fight for justice. She also expressed hope in the work of poets: “It’s our imagination and your students’ imagination that’s going to help change the world and make the world a better place.”
Middle and Upper School faculty incorporated Giovanni into their curriculum. In Advisory, Middle Schoolers listened to and read Giovanni’s poetry and then considered how they would write poems about themselves. For her ninth-grade class, Hya curated a selection of Giovanni’s works for her students and had them respond in journal entries. Isabelle Stillman’s sophomore class also wrote responses to Giovanni’s poetry and the event. Meanwhile, juniors in Abby’s class created films inspired by Giovanni’s poems.
“There were a lot of inspirational moments during the event,” reflected Lauren Morris, a ninth grader in Hya’s class. “But I especially liked the advice she gave about how listening to music and reading are really helpful to those who aspire to be poets and how doing those things can fuel your imagination.”
“Throughout Giovanni’s storytelling, I noticed how much beauty she is able to see in life,” added sophomore Mila Levit. “I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to hear Giovanni speak and will carry the lessons which she taught me throughout my academic career.”