Nikki Giovanni has written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children's books, and three collections of essays. Her book Racism 101 includes bold, controversial essays about the situation of Americans on all sides of various race issues. She has received nineteen honorary doctorates and a host of other awards, including "Woman of the Year" awards from three different magazines as well as Governors' Awards in the Arts from both Tennessee and Virginia. Her two most recent volumes of poetry, Love Poems and Blues: For All the Changes, were both winners of the NAACP Image Award, in 1998 and 2000, respectively. Since 1987, she has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. As a devoted and passionate writer, teacher, and speaker, she inspires not only her students, but also readers and audiences nationwide.
This is not to imply that Nikki Giovanni rushes through life. The quiet, sedate Giovanni, who helps the citizens of Warm Hearth Village Retirement Community put their concerns in writing, is an alter-ego of the pacing, gesturing, challenging Giovanni who appears to a class of college students. But whether her manner of the moment is challenging or reassuring, Giovanni's purpose is the same: to help others express themselves creatively.
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Giovanni also reaches out to churches. She visited Bethel Church in Roanoke to speak on Women's Day. "The odds of a small church in Roanoke coming to Virginia Tech to hear a poetry reading are small," she said, "but after that, they will come. You have to give something back (to the world)." Her giving back takes many forms, from participating in "Read-Out America" for National Reading Month to conducting a one-day workshop for Black Veterans of Foreign Wars to serving on the board of the literary publication Artemis. But, her own writing aside, it is in the classroom at Virginia Tech that Nikki Giovanni "gives back" the most. She teaches writing as well as poetry and literature courses, and she is a devoted, passionate teacher. Giovanni saw a need, for example, for a course for athletes, a course in which they would learn to express their feelings.