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    The Power of Family in Nikki Giovanni’s “Nikki-Rosa”

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    GiovanniNikki (Yolande Cornelia) Giovanni has made an enormous impact on AfricanAmerican literature. She uses her own experiences to write wonderful poetry. Inthe poem “Nikki-Rosa,” Nikki Giovanni writes the opposite about hergrowing up in her family.

    When I first read this poem, I pictured apoverty-stricken family living in a small apartment, much like the Youngerfamily in A Raisin in the Sun. Evidently, the family is poor because they haveno inside toilet and take baths in “one of those/ big tubs that folk inchicago barbecue in” (10-11). The family is not as concerned about povertyas they are for their love for one another, “And though you’re poor itisn’t poverty that concerns you and though they fought a lot it isn’t yourfather’s drinking that makes any difference but only that everybody is togetherand you and your sister have happy birthdays and very good Christmasses”(20-26) The poem reveals a good family does have its problems. I got the feelingthe children in the poem loved living where they lived although their parentsweren’t the richest, or they didn’t live in the nicest house. The childrenrealized that there was more to life than having a pleasant house and delightfulthings. The children in the poem realize that family life is more important thanmaterial objects.

    The poem “Nikki-Rosa” was written based on the lifeof Nikki Giovanni. Nikki Giovanni’s childhood was very much different that theone described in the poem. Giovanni was raised in a middle class family,although she did learn of poverty from her parents who happened to be socialworkers (Wiedemann 1500). Her childhood could be described as very happy (Great178). Giovanni’s world in her poetry is an extension of her real life. Often,she sees herself existing among tensions.

    Biographers who write about NikkiGiovanni always comment on the poverty of the family, her parent’s fighting, andnote her father’s alcoholism, but almost never comment on the closeness of herfamily or the richness of a strong, supportive family (Wiedemann 1499). “[I]tisn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference/ but only that everybodyis together” (23-24). This line in the poem sums up very well the feelingof family in the home of Nikki Giovanni during her childhood. The poem is notautobiographical of Giovanni’s life, but it does parallel the development of herradical conscious (Wiedemann 1500).

    “Nikki-Rosa” is a typical exampleof a poem by Nikki Giovanni. She writes about what she knows and what she hasexperienced. The poetry of Giovanni is related to issues African-Americans faceon a daily basis. According to Don L. Lee, she knows the need for Blackawareness, unity, and, solidarity; she has lived through it, and knows a changecan be affected.

    (182) Nikki Giovanni’s poetry contains no punctuation,symbolizing a continuous thought (Wiedemann 1499). Typically there is no form inher poetry. A wide audience has read her poems because of the simplicity of thelanguage used and the imagery of everyday life (Wiedemann 1499). Giovanni rarelyuses difficult symbols and avoids the usage of complex vocabulary to convey themeaning of her poetry, especially “Nikki-Rosa” (Wiedemann 1500).

    Barbara Wiedemann comments that “Nikki-Rosa” hints at the division ofwhites and blacks (1500). In Wiedemann’s interview with Giovanni, she statesthat whites cannot understand the black experience, and because of the powerstructure in America, whites should be held accountable for the povertyexperienced by the black population. Giovanni believes differences in educationcause poverty, a lack of social services, and discrimination. (1500) This poem,written the day after Martin Luther King, Jr.

    ‘s death is supposed to represent ayoung person growing up in an impoverished family who later becomes a blackactivist. The Nikki in the poem is not Nikki Giovanni. However, Rosa is RosaParks, the same Rosa who, in 1955, refused to give up her bus seat to a whitewoman. Giovanni writes about these kinds of things because she herself hasattended antiwar demonstrations, the Civil Rights Movement, and various riotsthroughout the nation. These and other events such as the assassinations ofMartin Luther King, Jr. , Malcolm X, and Robert Kennedy helped to radicalizeNikki Giovanni (Wiedemann 1500).

    Nikki Giovanni uses her knowledge of subjectsrelated blacks to write her poetry. Within her poetry, she emphasizes theimportance of family and love in the family to create a success. In her ownfamily, she had two loving parents and siblings. She used her knowledge andexperience to write the poem “Nikki-Rosa. ” Giovanni is a poet whowrote about what she knew the most about, black culture and the importance offamily.

    BibliographyGiovanni, Nikki. Gemini. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. 1971. —.

    Racism 101. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. , 1994. Lee, Don L. “Nikki Giovanni”. Contemporary Literary Criticism Volume 64.

    CarolynRiley, ed. Detroit: Gale Research Co. Great Women Writers. Frank N. Magill, ed.

    New York: Henry & Colt Company. 1994 Wiedemann, Barbara. “NikkiGiovanni”. Masterplots II: Poetry Series Volume 4. Frank N. Magill, ed.

    Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Salem Press. 1992.

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    The Power of Family in Nikki Giovanni’s “Nikki-Rosa”. (2019, Jan 02). Retrieved from

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