Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEMO celebrates the legacy of MLK with speaker Nikki Giovanni

Friday, February 12, 2021
Nikki Giovanni
Photo submitted by Shonta Smith

The Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Planning Committee invited all students, faculty and staff to a celebration event with keynote speaker Nikki Giovanni, held through Run the World on Feb. 10.

This was the first time the event has been virtual and free in the past 16 years

The keynote speaker for the night was poet, writer, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni. “Speaking to the Moment: Reconciling the Dream” was the message and theme of the night.

Giovanni shared the history of Emmet Till, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. to start off the night.

“It only matters, that you have a voice and that you use it, that you don't let anybody take that voice away from you,” Giovanni said.

Giovanni read multiple poems throughout the event, including “Quilts,” a poem of hers that she said she loves dearly.

“America is a quilt; we are a nation made up of various and different people,” Giovanni said. “No matter what anybody wants, it is not ever going to be one thing; we are all going to be equipped together.”

Giovanni read an excerpt from her book “Make me Rain” to close out the night.

“Poetry is like a child in many ways: it grows and grows, adding whatever is needed: teeth, longer legs, a mind that discriminates.”

“We need poetry because it brings the light of love.” said Giovanni about her poetry “ We are poetry and poetry is us. It is the soil that keeps us growing.”

Multi-talented performer and educator Jonathan Bibbs played music throughout the event, including a rendition of Marvin Gaye's song “What’s Going On” and then “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as his closing song.

Graduate student Karma Alvery said she decided to attend the event because she takes classes about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the Harlem Renaissance. She was in a pre-selected group to talk to Nikki Giovanni before the event started.

“Not everyone gets to say that they got real-life advice from Nikki Giovanni, right? So that was really fun,” Alvery said

“One of the things that [Giovanni] really wants is for young people to be leaders, take charge. Be an example, be successful, be great, and learn from the past,” MLK Planning Committee Co-chair Shonta Smith said. “The lessons you learn from the past — use them to help you better the communities we live in.”