Story Gatherings | Nashville, Tennessee

Nikki Giovanni on Finding Your Own Voice

Kellyn Robison
Written by Kellyn Robison

Nikki Giovanni on Finding Your Own Voice

We got to have a lively conversation with poet, activist, and educator, Nikki Giovanni to talk about storytelling, how to stay hopeful, and the importance of finding your own voice. Nikki is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech where she continues to write and contribute to important cultural conversations.

Since she has been such a strong influencer in culture, especially among the black community, we wanted to hear her thoughts on society’s current climate.

“We are positive. There are some problems, everybody has problems, but that’s called life. We dig into the ground because we hope that we will eventually find gold. We have to remain optimistic.”

Since we weren’t there to witness the fight for segregation in the 60’s first hand, we wanted to learn what it was like to be there.  Nikki has walked through with other cultural trailblazers such as MLK, Rosa Parks, and Maya Angelou so she knows the heart and soul of the story.

“When we were deciding how to stop segregation, fear was not one of our options. If you let fear get in the way, you will never do anything. We did what we could do, but you cannot allow fear to get in your way. Our people have always put one foot in front of the other and kept going. I think it is incredible that people today are not giving up.”

She said this so matter-of-factly, as if their lives weren’t ever in danger.  It was just something that they knew had to be done, no questions asked. And the movement continues in this way through a variety of outlets.


At STORY we believe that arts and creativity can and will influence culture and we love that Nikki is using her writing to push the envelope on subjects such as racism.

“If you’re not thinking about how things are going to get better, I don’t know what you’re thinking about. I’m a big fan of creative writing. I watch Family Feud before I go to bed so I can sleep smiling. When you go to bed smiling, you can think of something else that you want to say. That’s what we do; we create something that’s going to be a little better.”

Those words speak so strongly to #STORY2016’s theme dreaming of a better world, system, or situation, and writing that different narrative for others to believe in.

She had so much more to talk about as far as her creative process, her advice for her writing students, and what’s it’s like to be friends with Rosa Parks.  She’s so lively fun, you will want to listen to the full episode.

Listen to the rest of the conversation here.

Subscribe to future conversations here.

Kellyn Robison
Kellyn Robison

VP of Everything at Istoria Collective.