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Nikki Giovanni Has Advice for Black Women Dealing with Emotional Labor

"We seem to be spending time telling white people what they're doing wrong, instead of telling Black people what we're doing right," Giovanni tells Broadly.
Nikki Giovanni at the Apollo Theater
Photo by C. Bay Milin

Nikki Giovanni, the renowned poet behind "Ego Tripping" and Love Poems, whose entire career has been dedicated inciting dialogue about global race issues and uplifting Black women, was unfiltered at the WOW Women of the World Festival, a celebration of women and girls at the Apollo Theater that took place on Tuesday night. Over 800 women packed the historic Harlem edifice to see American anthropologist Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole interview Giovanni about her legacy and advice to young Black women navigating the current political landscape.


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To Broadly, Giovanni expanded on commentary she offered about the emotional burden Black women take on in public spheres as constant advocates for marginalized communities. "One of the things I think is missing right now," Giovanni said, "is we seem to be spending time telling white people what they're doing wrong, instead of telling Black people what we're doing right."

Adding a clarification, Giovanni continued, "But I love Maxine [Waters] and I just love when she says something and Donald Trump gets so upset. I love it."

During her chat with Cole, the NAACP Image Award winner touched on the legacy of Black Americans and their ability to survive in the most horrific of times.

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Responding to a question concerning perseverance, "Someone mentioned lynchings," Giovanni said. "It's easy to forget that somebody cut those bodies down, which was bad enough. But then you had to wipe the spit off. And then you had to close up the wounds that were open. And then they had to bury them. They had to carry that story forward. And they carried that story forward with spirituals."

Giovanni connected that resilience to thinking about how to press forward during and despite Donald Trump's presidency; her advice for surviving the current political climate is keeping rich, spiritual connections intact. "We have to ask ourselves with Donald Trump, because, you know, we're looking at a Nazi right now […] so we're saying, 'How are we going to get through this?' We're gonna get through because we lean on the everlasting arms."