Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern announces Nikki Giovanni as 2017 MLK Celebration speaker

Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor, Department of English

Nikki Giovanni

Georgia Southern University will welcome Nikki Giovanni, world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator, to campus on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. As the University’s 2017 MLK Celebration speaker, Giovanni will present her speech, “The Right to Dream,” for the annual event. Each year, the MLK Celebration provides an opportunity for the campus and local community to gather and celebrate the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Giovanni will speak at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center, 847 Plant Drive, Statesboro. The event is free and open to the public.

Over the past 30 years, the outspoken nature of her writing and speaking has brought the eyes of the world upon her. Priding herself on being “a Black American, a daughter, a mother and a professor of English,” Giovanni is committed to the fight for civil rights and equality and, always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the black community. Her focus is on the individual—specifically, the power one has to make a difference in oneself and in the lives of others.

“Nikki Giovanni has a gift for inspiring others to examine our world in more meaningful ways,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Teresa Thompson, Ph.D. “We are honored to host such an important voice in the conversation of fairness and equality as we honor Dr. King’s legacy.”

Giovanni has written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books and three collections of essays. The Academy of American Poets voted Giovanni number one poet for Spring 2007. Her book, Racism 101, includes bold, controversial essays about the situation of Americans on all sides of various race issues.

She has received 21 honorary doctorates and a host of other awards, including Woman of the Year titles from three different magazines, and the Governors’ Awards in the Arts from both Tennessee and Virginia.

Rosa, her biography of legendary civil rights activist Rosa Parks, won Caldecott Honors and the Coretta Scott King Medal for best illustrated book. Three of her volumes of poetry – Love Poems, Blues: For all the Changes and Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea – were winners of the NAACP Image Award in 1998, 2000 and 2003. Her newly released collection, Bicycles: Love Poems, has been called one of her “most powerful offerings to date” by Essence magazine.

Since 1987, Giovanni has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a distinguished professor. As a devoted and passionate writer, teacher and speaker, she inspires not only her students but also readers and audiences nationwide.

Her album Truth Is on Its Way, in which she reads her poetry against a background of gospel music, was a top 100 album and was named Best Spoken Word Album by the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, a spoken-word CD, was a finalist for the 2003 Grammy Award in the category of spoken word.

The annual celebration to commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and the University’s Multicultural Student Center. For more information, click here.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research University founded in 1906, offers more than 125 degree programs serving 20,674 students. Through eight colleges, the University offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs built on more than a century of academic achievement. Georgia Southern is recognized for its student-centered and hands-on approach to education. Visit

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