Amiri Imamu Baraka
Poet Laureate, Playwright, Speaker, Activist
I was introduced to Nikki Giovanni through the poem, “Ego Tripping”
“I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended
except by my permission”
“I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
I was maybe a senior in high school when I found Giovanni through this poem at my local library. And I remember the embarrassed feeling I got after I read the poem. I thought…”who is this woman bragging on herself?” “who does she think she is to be referencing herself a Queen and being the mother to Hannibal and Noah?” I remember it felt great but it was also foreign. I almost didn’t want to be caught reading it.
What I realize now is that may have been my first time being introduced to an African American feminine narrative.
The poem wasn’t about doors or boats from Robert Frost.
The poem wasn’t about hope and feathers from Emily Dickinson.
It wasn’t the blues from Langston Hughes.
It wasn’t Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton or Paul Lawrence Dunbar…
or my beloved Maya Angelou and her Caged Bird…
Nikki Giovanni was the first time I read an African American woman refer to herself as beautiful and being directly connected to all things beautiful in the art world of poetry.
I remembering sitting on the floor in the middle of the aisle at the library and reading the poems in her book and imagining a Tennessee cloud looking like cotton candy… women being judged for the length of their Sunday school dresses… summer love… and even to this day when someone mentions her name… it makes me smile and remember meeting her in the library that afternoon.
When I walked across the Pettus Bridge in Selma for the 50th anniversary earlier this year, Rev. Al Sharpton said something in a sermon that struck a cord with me. He said, “We praise our dead and condemn the living.” It made me want to acknowledge everyone that has served as inspiration to me before they left this planet!
So today, I acknowledge Nikki Giovanni! I speak her name for inspiring me and making me feel so embarrassingly, wonderful and warm about myself one afternoon at the library 🙂 The audacity of learning from poetry!
May Miller was an African American poet, playwright and educator. Miller became known as the most widely published woman playwright of the Harlem Renaissance, with seven published volumes of poetry during her career as a writer.
I celebrate her because she was the “most published woman playwright of the Harlem Renaissance” and the world does not know her name… MAY MILLER, we thank you and remember you!
Probably the most significant collector and interpreter of Southern, African American culture, Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) is the dominant female voice of the Harlem Renaissance era. In her works, she celebrates her hometown, Eatonville, as representative of the dignity and beauty of rural Southern, African-American life and culture. A consummate storyteller, she brings to her readers an authenticity based on her primary research.
Her legacy is a phenomenon which has undergone remarkable development and expansion in recent decades, embracing among others, topics in ethnic identity, social interaction, feminist theory and cultural continuity. Her unique insights into folklore, performance and creative expression have invited new interpretation and inspired emulation, while the corpus of her own works has grown as a result of research and discovery.
It’s not too late to join the annual festivities in the name of the literary icon, Zora Neale Hurston:
What Are The ZORA!™ Festival’s Goals ?
- To celebrate the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston
- To celebrate the historic significance of Eatonville
- To celebrate the cultural contributions which people of African ancestry have made to the United States and to world culture
“In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons. The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity.” Maya Angelou
“My soul should always look back and wonder at the mountains I had climbed and the rivers I had forged and the challenges which still await down the road. I am strengthened by that knowledge.” Maya Angelou
When she was once being “timidly attacked” by a Hollywood producer who was interested in developing one of her short stories into a television show: “I promise you, you do not want me as your adversary because, once I feel myself under threat, I fight to win, and in that case I will forget that I am thirty years older than you, with a reputation for being passionate.” Maya Angelou
she continued in this chapter:
“I am never proud to participate in violence, yet, I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves, that we can be ready and able to come to our own defense when and wherever needed.” Maya Angelou
“Racism still rages behind many smiling faces, and women are still spoken of in some circles, as conveniently pretty vessels. Macon, Georgia is down south, New York City is up south. Blithering ignorance can be found wherever you choose to live.” Maya Angelou
“Southern themes will range from generous and luscious love to cruel and bitter hate, but no one can ever claim that the South is petty or indifferent. [In the south] black people walk with an air which implies “when I walk in, they may like me or dislike me, but everybody knows I’m here.” Maya Angelou
January 25, 1950 – September 28, 2016