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Lafayette College’s celebration of Black History Month will continue with a keynote talk by Nikki Giovanni at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20. in Colton Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.

One of the most widely read American poets, Giovanni has maintained a strong voice for civil rights and equality in education since she emerged in the public eye in 1968. Her talk is one of two keynote speeches during Lafayette’s Black History Month observance, whose theme is “Black by Nature, Gifted by the Spirit, and Abled by God!” It complements a Feb. 11 address by Afrocentric scholar Na’im Akbar.

Giovanni’s focus is on the power of the individual to make inner changes that can influence the lives of others. “Do something with your life,” she urges. “You will find that what you have coveted is not worth coveting. There is a limit to what material things can do.”

Since 1987, under the Commonwealth Visiting Professor Program, Giovanni has been teaching writing, poetry, and literature at Virginia Tech. She has received numerous honorary doctorates and awards, including being named “Woman of the Year” by three magazines, Ebony, Mademoiselle, and Ladies Home Journal. Her book The Love Poems of Nikki Giovanni book won the NAACP Image Award in 1998.

Her other books include Blues: For All the Changes, which made the Los Angeles Times best seller list, the first time a poet had ever been listed. All but one of her nearly 20 books are still in print, with several having sold more than 100,000 copies. Her volumes of poetry and essays include Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgment, The Women and the Men, Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, Sacred Cows and Other Edibles, and a collection of controversial essays about racial themes, Racism 101. She illustrated a children’s book, Knoxville, Tennessee, and edited the multicultural anthologies Grand/Mothers and Grand/Fathers. A recording of her poems was one of the best-selling albums in the country. Her most recent CD is titled Nikki Giovanni in Philadelphia.

Robert E. Bedford, Lafayette’s assistant dean of students and director of intercultural development, says, “I believe that part of the enhancement of the black family is uplifting both genders. In the past, Lafayette has only had one keynote speaker for Black History Month. Instead of being limited to one gender being represented, why not have both?” For more information, contact Bedford, (610) 330-5556.

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