As Kennesaw State University joins the rest of the nation to mark another deserved birthday celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, it welcomed the world-renowned poet, Nikki Giovanni, as its keynote speaker. In her inaugural visit to KSU, Giovanni posed a question worthy of deep consideration.
“Why has there not been a major motion picture in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Hollywood has made movies about drug dealers and criminals, Capone, Dillinger, and so on. You have to wonder why Martin has no movie in his honor,” the bold and critically acclaimed Giovanni demanded during the 2012 annual observance on Monday, January 16.
Forty-four years after his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr., is yet to earn a big-screen, sole-title movie right as Malcolm X and numerous other black history makers and heavyweights.
In an unpredictable mixture of history lecture, entertainment, chastisement, and religious sermon, Giovanni kept up a stream of surprising influx that kept attendees laughing hilariously and continually. Without warning, she sent them bristling from her criticisms and feeling grateful for uncountable legacies at the same time.
A distinguished professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University-Virginia Tech–since 1987, Giovanni sneaked in another title to numerous others (mother, writer, poet, commentator, and activist), that of a comedienne, as she caused riotous laughter to erupt smoothly and repeatedly.
The “Princess of Black Poetry” recanted childhood stories of her grandmother’s link to Civil Rights legends such as Rosa Parks, E.D. Nixon (who bailed Parks out of jail), and MLK, Jr. She reminded us of a very painful fact: “We lost Martin too early. He was just 39.” Ironically, Giovanni’s writing career was born in the year of Martin Luther King’s assassination.
Giovanni recited a very moving tribute to “the incomparable Martin” from her poetry collection, Acolyte.
“In the Spirit of Martin,” demanded “the world to see what they did to my boy.” It traveled through civil rights cities and envisioned a present-day Martin, “the voice of his people,” wearing a tattoo and with braided hair.
One of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends,” Giovanni uplifted the mixed-race audience by urging Caucasian female writers and historians to tell the story of the frontier woman whose courage in the face of insurmountable danger has not begun to be told yet.
Georgia’s third largest university, Kennesaw State honored the woman who came to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., with a medley of orchestrated events such as songs by the KSU Gospel Choir, a rendition of the “Black National Anthem,” and remarks by President Daniel S. Papp.