Giovanni featured speaker at JSU Black Arts Movement photography exhibit

(Jackson, Miss.) Famed poet, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni is the keynote speaker at the opening of a photography exhibit documenting the black arts movement showing at Jackson State University.

Speaking at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 23, at the JSU Student Center Theater, Giovanni will introduce Dr. Doris Derby’s documentary photography exhibit, “The Black Arts Movement, Black Power, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in America.”

Derby documented the civil rights movement as an activist. Now a retired Georgia State University anthropology professor, her photography shows many aspects of the movement as it was unfolding and features major women figures such as Myrlie Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and Margaret Walker.

Giovanni is one of America’s best known African-American poets. In addition to collections of poetry (such as Re: Creation, Love Poems, and The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni), she has published several works of nonfiction, children’s literature and recordings, including the Emmy-award nominated The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection.

Giovanni has taught at Rutgers University, Ohio State University, and Virginia Tech.

Those wishing to hear Giovanni speak should not be late for the program, said Dr. Robert Luckett, director of JSU’s Margaret Walker Center for the Study of the African-American Experience, which is sponsoring the event. “People will be there early. It will be full by 5:30,” Luckett predicts.

“This event is free and open to the public, and it will be immediately followed by the exhibition opening reception in the Johnson Hall Art Gallery,” Luckett said.

The program is part of the yearlong observance of the anniversary of Margaret Walker’s birth, titled This Is My Century: 2015 Margaret Walker Centennial.

Giovanni’s visit brings another layer of remembrance to the legacy of Margaret Walker, the late JSU professor known on campus by her married name of Margaret Walker Alexander.

The Giovanni-Walker connection will be remembered from references during the keynote speech Jan. 16 at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Birthday Convocation by Paula Giddings, a professor of African-American studies at Smith College.

Giddings was a senior at Howard University giving a poetry reading when she met Walker. She went on to work for Howard University Press and edited the book, A Poetic Equation: Conversations between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker, published in 1974.

Books will be available for sale at the event, Luckett said.