Monthly Archives: May 2022

Salut Nikki!

Was there ever a time when I did not know of Nikki Giovanni? I ‘d have to go way back to check because she was in my college anthologies, first. But most pointedly, I had her albums and tapes of her reading her poems with music in the background. She was certainly a forerunner of rap and hip hop, as were The Last Poets

In my apartment in College Park, Georgia, I had her album, propped up in the living room in the late 70’s. The cover had a beautiful, brown, wide-eyed baby on the cover, and it was titled, Truth Is On Its Way. I enjoyed it as I listened to her storytelling with a powerful choir in the background. She made me think and ponder the many aspects of life. 

I liked all of it but there are a couple of pieces that stick out in my mind. In her Alabama Poem, there is an old woman sitting on her porch working on her bunions and she asks the young woman walking by what they were teaching her at Tuskegee College, down the way. She gave the passerby a few quick life lessons that would serve her for years to come. One pointer was not to judge the goodness of a man even if he has no DE-GREE. (Hilarious!) 

The other track called All I Gotta Do, helped me to learn to wait, along with John Burroughs poem called Waiting. She says, “All I gotta do is sit and wait. Sit and wait and maybe it will find me.” I have learned that yes, waiting is truly difficult, but it is still a virtue. As others began to putter out, those patient ones begin to shine. 

At my place in Evanston in the mid 70’s I loved her rendition of My House. It is definitive as she marks her own territory and says, “And my windows might be dirty,… and if I can’t see out sometimes, but they can’t see in either…” (Love it!) She has that quiet, succinct humor that sticks and stays in the psyche.

Time passed on and Sista Nikki continually evolved as I too rowed by boat further up and down the streams. She went on to do a stint with NASA. I always kept up with her movements and caught her when I could. She came to Memphis in the late 80’s where there was a conference of literary giants. I made my way over to LeMoyne-Owen College and there stood Paula Giddings holding with a bouquet of roses in the reception area.

And then like magic, there stood Nikki, alone and self-assured. In a flash, we were facing each other and about three feet apart. She smiled and I did the same. No words were spoken nor needed. We had an inaudible Namaste moment. And that moment never left me because we were breathing the same space and hopefully some of that poetic energy flowed on to me. 

Years later, I saw her speak in an auditorium at Boston Public Library in the 2000’s. I tried to see her again when she came to speak at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago again in the mid 2000’s. When I headed to the basement to go the Auditorium. I couldn’t get in. It was packed. Closed. No room in the inn. No surprise there! 

When tragedy struck at Virginia Tech in the mid -2000’s her voice rang out. She is a Professor of Letters there. She spoke in defense of her students with care and concern, and I thought, “Nikki, being Nikki.” Always speaking the word of truth to power and exemplifying the consummate black woman and poet. A true sista, High Priestess of the Spoken Word always telling it like it is. Salut, Sista Nikki!  Speak on! 

Lynn M. 
May 21, 2022 

Going to Little Rock!

The weather was mild and sunny and the pavement was dry. It was the mid-80’s and me and my co-teacher Donna, were on the road in a community-college van filled with anxious young women. We were leaving Memphis and headed to Little Rock, Arkansas for an education conference.

Donna drove and I was her co-pilot and the young women on board were excited, but calm. As their instructors, we would have it no other way. The road trip took approximately two hours and it was a seamless trip. I found it interesting that Donna straddled the lanes as she drove but I didn’t say anything because we basically had the highway to ourselves.

We arrived in Little Rock and checked in at the sparkling, new Excelsior Hotel which had recently opened in the downtown area. It was my first and only trip to Little Rock so I took in every detail about this capital city. We unloaded the van, approached the beautiful hotel, entered and headed towards the check-in desk.

And poof!  The unthinkable happened in a flash. A very handsome, suave man approached the young women smiling and in a matter of minutes, one of them left with him. Just like that and before one could say, “Lickety-split.”  That’s a pun because she had split- with him.

Donna and I were stymied but we had to get our bearings and take care of the business at hand. After clearing our thoughts, we checked in and got the other young women settled in their rooms. As the shock wore off, we did not know if we should go to the police, the morgue or what. This was long before the advent of cell phones so we had no way of tracking her down.

We went on with the plans and I don’t remember a lot about the conference sessions because we all had this looming plague hanging over us regarding the missing student. I do remember that the beauty and ambience of the hotel was both calming and comforting as we tried to make certain that the others had a good time.

One night, some of them ventured out and had some scary encounter. They had walked to McDonald’s to get some of the new bacon, sausage sandwiches which had recently come out. They knocked on our door like little scared rabbits, came in and filled us in on what happened. They wanted to stay in our room for a while. Thank goodness, nothing grave had occurred so we laughed as we executed our duties as chaperones. Of course, the missing student was on everyone’s mind though we all pretended that we were all fine. 

On the last day of the conference, the missing student showed up grinning. I am sure that Donna read her the riot act, but I did not even look at her. She looked insane to me so I privately decided that she was ‘not playing with a full deck’, ‘ paddling with one oar’ or ‘her elevator did not go to the top.‘ All of that street lingo applied to her. Today, she would be called ‘cra-cra.’

We let her in the van and I am sure no one talked to her as we headed back to the Bluff City (Memphis). We were just blessed that we did not have to go to the police department, the morgue nor console her distraught family members.  When I recall that experience now, I just smh (shake my head) and thank the protecting angels who had us all covered!

Lynn M.
May 7, 2022