Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Nikki Giovanni to speak at the 16th annual MLK Celebration

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Poet, educator and best-selling author Nikki Giovanni was invited by the MLK Planning Committee as the keynote speaker for the 16th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Celebration on Feb. 10.

Giovanni has fought for civil rights and equality throughout the past 30 years.

According to the Poetry Foundation, Giovanni’s fight for civil rights and equality grew out of her response to the assassination of figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Robert Kennedy.

In 1994, Giovanni wrote “Racism 101,” a non-fiction book focused on her personal experiences of the civil rights movement and its aftermath.

The foundation also reported Giovanni’s early books, “Black Feeling Black Talk (1968),” “Black Judgement” (1968) and “Re: Creation” (1970), quickly established her as a prominent voice in African American literature.

Giovanni has authored more than two dozen books, earning three New York Times and Los Angeles Times Best Sellers. The activist has also been awarded seven NAACP Image Awards.

MLK Planning Committee Co-chair Smith said Giovanni is actively living the theme of the celebration, “Speaking to the Moment: Reconciling the Dream.”

“When you think about Nikki Giovanni, she is still speaking to the moment. She is actively engaged, participating in activism and is a voice for the people. Giovanni is a living, walking testament of how we can speak to the moment,” Smith said.

Smith said musical performances during the virtual celebration will encourage each attendee to “look within themselves, speak to the moment and reconcile the dream.”

Assistant professor of trombone and euphonium and director of Jazz Studies Joseph Jefferson is the musical director for the event.

He said the evening will include a blues-themed musical prelude by the Southeast Jazz Collective followed by guest artist performances from Peighton Robinson and Jonathan Bibbs.

Jefferson said the Southeast Jazz Collective will perform virtually from Shuck Recital Hall, but all guest artist performances have been pre-recorded due to COVID-19.

“With COVID-19, it is very difficult to get everyone together. We are trying to be very precautious. When I spoke to [Bibbs], and I told him that I wanted the performances to be as intimate as possible, I think we were able to capture that. He was able to use his creative genre to create that kind of environment in terms of the people he chose to accompany him,” Jefferson said.

The MLK Celebration event is from 4 to 8 p.m via Run The World on Feb. 10.

The event is free of charge but registration is required. To register to visit their website here.

For more information, visit the MLK Celebration event webpage.