In anticipation of Stew & Heidi's Notes of a Native Song, Nikki Giovanni joins author and poet Clint Smith to recount her friendship with the late James Baldwin.
In the fall of 1971, writer James Baldwin sat down with poet Nikki Giovanni for a conversation of astonishing timeliness today. The event was hosted by the PBS television program Soul! and was eventually published as A Dialogue. Representing two generations--Baldwin was forty-six and Giovanni only twenty-eight—the two writers exchanged a freewheeling conversation on the problems facing Americans, black and white, as well as the troubles besetting the world.
Following the conversation will be a small reception with light hors d'oeuvres and music by special guest Joy Clark.
Yolanda Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1960, she entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she worked with the school’s Writer’s Workshop and edited the literary magazine. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1967, she organized the Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati before entering graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.
Giovanni is the author of numerous books and poetry collections, including Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (William Morrow, 2013); Bicycles: Love Poems (William Morrow, 2009); Acolytes (HarperCollins, 2007); The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998 (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2003); Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not-Quite Poems (William Morrow, 2002); Blues For All the Changes: New Poems (William Morrow, 1999); Love Poems (William Morrow, 1997); and Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (University Press of Mississippi, 1996).
Her honors include the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Dedication and Commitment to Service in 2009, three NAACP Image Awards for Literature in 1998, the Langston Hughes award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters in 1996, as well as more than twenty honorary degrees from national colleges and universities. She has been given keys to more than a dozen cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, and New Orleans.
Several magazines have named Giovanni Woman of the Year, including Essence, Mademoiselle, Ebony, and Ladies Home Journal. She was the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award. She has served as poetry judge for the National Book Awards and was a finalist for a Grammy Award in the category of Spoken Word.
She is currently University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 1987.
Clint Smith is a writer, teacher, and doctoral candidate in Education at Harvard University with a concentration in Culture, Institutions, and Society. He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship with research interests that include mass incarceration, the sociology of race, and the history of U.S. inequality. Previously, he taught high school English in Prince George’s County, Maryland where, in 2013, he was named the Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year by the Maryland Humanities Council. He has spoken at the 2015 TED Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, the U.S. Department of Education, the IB Conference of the Americas, the Aspen Summit on Inequality and Opportunity. He has been profiled in The Washington Post, Vox, The Huffington Post, The Root, NBC News, and in the book, American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom. His two TED Talks, The Danger of Silence and How to Raise a Black Son in America, collectively have been viewed more than 5 million times.
Clint is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion, an Individual World Poetry Slam Finalist, a Cave Canem Fellow, a Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop Fellow, and has served as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The Guardian, Boston Review, The American Poetry Review, Harvard Educational Review, and was a contributor in The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward. His first full-length collection of poetry, Counting Descent, was published by Write Bloody Publishing in September 2016.
Clint earned a BA in English from Davidson College and is an alumnus of the New Orleans Public School System.
Joy Clark’s musical artistry feels like a warm, fresh twist on the fervently familiar. Her tranquil, yet ardent, original creations are a heady mix of her major influences. Think Tracy Chapman, Lizz Wright, Maxwell, Anita Baker, Stevie Nicks, and Chris Eaton. Now add a bluesy, bayou vibe with a splash of folk sensibility and a dash of alternative appeal, and you’ll understand why this homegrown New Orleans singer/ songwriter/guitarist transcends both age and the ordinary.
Having studied her self-taught craft since the age of 12, Clark truly embodies the bliss that comes with creating melodies and rhythms to celebrate peace and the undeniable power of love. Her music is often described as the essence of ease, upliftment, self-affirmation, and sensitivity. It’s no wonder that she quickly rose to critical acclaim as one of the creators and lead singer of Soulkestra, performed with world-renowned vocalists Michaela Harrison, Sharon Martin, and Chaka Khan, and continues to enchant audiences throughout the Southern United States.