Poet, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni said people should always ask why something happened and never be satisfied with second and third hand accounts.
That’s the message she brought to a packed house at the Wilmington Public Library on Wednesday Feb. 1, during the Voices of Power Series.
Giovanni, a recently retired educator, said the public needs to continue asking questions particularly in the case of Tyree Nichols who was killed on Jan. 7 in Memphis Tennessee when three police cars converged for a traffic stop. His funeral was held on Feb 1.
“Tyree was a photographer,” Giovanni said. “My question is, where is his camera? What did he see that made three police cars come at the same time to beat him to death.”
Five Memphis police officers have been charged with murder in connection with his death. Body camera footage has been released that showed events leading up to his death.
“Racism isn’t about a color,” Giovanni said. “Something else is going on and it’s got to be addressed.”
Giovanni, 79, gave practical advice aimed at helping people live happier, more fulfilling lives. She said young people should be encouraged to limit social media, use libraries, and not abandon church.
“The kids need to be in libraries and off Facebook,” Giovanni said.
Giovanni, who released the A Library children’s book in September 2022, said teenagers on social media are often discouraged because they see what others are doing and they feel like they’re missing out.
“You’ve got to read,” Giovanni said. “You’ve got to know something.”
She also said the African American community has a history of passing on their traditions through spirituals and the oral tradition.
“You can always tell the kids who went to church from the kids who didn’t,” Giovanni said. “It’s the easiest thing in the world because the kids who went to church can talk. The kids who went to church can stand up and make a clear sentence that makes sense. The kids that didn’t go to church mumble.”
Giovanni also championed the power of the word.
“If we don’t have anything else left, we have the word,” Giovanni said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be a Black American because we have a great history here, and we have to keep it going.”
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