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Racism 101 by Nikki Giovanni

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One of the many favorite passages for me in this book begins on page 104 where she addresses Black students at predominantly white institutions: "You will inevitably run into some white classmates who are troubling because they often say stupid things, ask stupid questions--and expect an answer. Here are some come-backs to some of the most common inquiries. I love them all. For example the answer to a stupid question a professor might ask: "Can you give us the Black perspective on . . . " Giovanni's answer: "I can give you my perspective." A student question - "Q: Why are there so many scholarships for "minority" students? A: Because they wouldn't give my great-grandparents their forty acres and the mule." In this book Nikki Giovanni writes about gardening, space travel, and a variety of subjects that don't so directly address her main topic - Get it? Just because someone has a different color of skin does NOT make them exotic! You don't have to pummel them with questions like they are a phenomenon!  I recommend this book as a starting place. Nikki Giovanni is one of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 “Living Legends,” and also one of my favorite people. When I was working for Berea College, I invited her there, and she later invited me and my late wife, Connie, to come to Virginia Tech when I arranged for Ron Rash to visit her campus at her request. While there, she invited Connie and me to visit one of her classes, and I’ll always remember how she introduced each of her students – sitting with her and us in a circle – by name and some distinguishing characteristics. The following week-end she read one of her poems at the Dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and – after her parents moved to Cincinnati – she spent the summers there with her grandparents and attended Austin High School there before being accepted at Fisk University, her grandfather’s alma mater, as an “early entrant” without graduating from high school. They expelled her, but she was later reinstated, established a chapter of SNCC there, published an article in Negro Digestabout gender questions in the Movement, and graduated with honors in history. From there she went to the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work and the Columbia University MFA Program, graduating from neither, but becoming very active in Harlem’s Black Arts Movement, self-publishing her first book of poetry before being “discovered” by New York publishers that sold unprecedented numbers of her poetry books. Since 1987 she has taught at Virginia Tech.

New York: William Morrow, 1994. 203 pages with a Foreword by Virginia C. Fowler. Hardback in dust jacket. 

New York