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Nikki Giovanni Rocks Busboys and Poets

Barrington M. Salmon | 7/17/2013, noon
Nikki Giovanni stands in front of Busboys and Poets in Northwest. The acclaimed poet shared her thoughts about the Trayvon Martin case, President Barack Obama and her new book during an interview with radio talk show host Rock Newman on Saturday, July 13. More than 100 poetry lovers filed through the doors of the 14th and V Street restaurant to hear Giovanni's opinions on various topics. Photo by Roy Lewis

For most of her 70 years, poet Nikki Giovanni has lived by the philosophy that there are things you stand up for because they’re right.

As she’s gotten older, and as America continues to be roiled by political, economic and social upheaval, that philosophy has assumed greater currency.

“I don’t get invited to the White House because of what I say, but that’s fine,” the writer, poet and essayist said during a recent interview. “I’m a poet. If what we say is not honest, what are we asking people to come to us for?”

Giovanni – a distinguished professor at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va., since 1987 – was in town as a guest of boxing promoter, entrepreneur and radio show host Rock Newman on his new weekly show which airs on WeAct Radio (1480 AM). On Saturday, July 13, Newman’s show aired from Busboys and Poets restaurant at 14th and V Streets, NW. For more than three hours, Newman asked Giovanni questions about herself, her art, what she’s learned over the years and her opinions on people such as President Barack Obama, boxing great Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou and others.

More than 100 people crammed into the Langston Room to watch Newman and Giovanni on stage chatting and large speakers set up outside allowed passersby to listen in too. The easy rapport and jokes between both lit up the stage, had many in the crowd chuckling and Newman blushing.

Giovanni said she’s reveling in getting older.

“I just turned 70 and I’m loving it,” she gushed. “If you make it to the 60s, you just open up. The 50s are when diseases might grab you but at 70, the children are grown, the house is paid for and you have the freedom. This is the time, if you want to, that you should get married, although I’m not trying to do that.”

“Life changes so much. If we were talking about 50 years ago, my interests now are very different. I’m growing older, thinking that lots of things don’t matter. Somewhere in there, you realize that other people don’t matter.”

During an interview following the radio show, Giovanni, author of more than 30 books, winner of three NAACP Awards and an Oprah Legend, talked about her new book, “Chasing Utopia.”

“You look at things very differently,” she said. “My mom died five years ago and I’m still dealing with that. It is going back to my childhood. The book is gooood. And I’ve used mixed media.”

She spoke freely about her parents, her son, the importance of family, growing old, love and intimacy.

“I think it’s very difficult to commit to love,” she said. “I lived with my parents but went to live with my grandparents because I wanted to kill my father.”

Giovanni said her father was an alcoholic which presented its share of problems.

“My mom went to heaven and my father went to hell. When I die and I go to hell, we’re going to have a long discussion, then we’ll get a day-pass to go to heaven to talk to my mom,” she joked.