April 29, 2008 - Mayor Haslam
unveiled of a historical marker honoring award-winning writer and Knoxville native, Nikki Giovanni on Tuesday, April 29 on Hall of Fame Drive across the street from the Cal Johnson Recreation Center.
Nikki Giovanni, Mayor Bill Haslam, Vice Mayor Mark Brown, Avon Rollins, director and CEO of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center spoke at the event.
The City of Knoxville and the Beck Cultural Exchange Center placed the historical marker near where the home of Giovanni’s grandparents, John and Louvenia Watson, once stood.
Giovanni was born here in 1943 and, though she moved to Cincinnati as a child, she returned to spend her summers here with her grandparents, John and Louvenia Watson, and also lived here for a time when she attended Austin High School.
Her grandparents’ home stood near here at 400 Mulvaney Street in a neighborhood that’s long since been demolished but that will always live on in the minds and hearts of the people who lived in it.
Many of the things that Nikki Giovanni experienced here are infused in her work, both the good and the bad.
Nikki Giovanni is a true daughter of Knoxville but because she was black during a time of segregation she wasn’t treated like one. Things have changed but they never should have been that way in the first place.
She went on to earn a degree from Fisk University and became a poet and writer of unusual power.
Nikki Giovanni has written 30 books and released more than half-a-dozen records and CDs.
She’s written for children.
She has performed spoken word albums.
She said the words that needed to be said during the sorrow of last year’s shootings at Virginia Tech – Nikki Giovanni isn’t someone whose work can be easily categorized.
People might agree with what she has written, or not.
They might love her work or they might hate it.
But no one who has read it ever just brushes off Nikki Giovanni’s work or forgets her words. They have an impact.
They had an impact 40 years ago, they have an impact today and they’ll still have an impact long after we’re all gone.
Her autobiography, “Gemini” was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Her children’s book, “Rosa” about Rosa Parks, was a Caldecott Honors Book and made the New York Times Bestseller list.
Her “Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection,” was a finalist for a Grammy Award.