Today, I met Nikki Giovanni.
About two days ago, I decided to visit the community college of denver website to explore what is being offered (because I want to make plans to return to school, this year). I read in the News Event bar that Nikki Giovanni was coming to speak at the campus, on Thursday. I clicked on it and as I ready he article, I was wondering over and over again,”Is this for real?”; “Is she really going to be here, in Denver, in the flesh, to speak?”
I decided to call the Student Life center for information and then decided to call my Russian best friend, Jemala. She lives in Denver and goes to school at the college campus. Coincidentally, she also had Wednesday night off, from work. So, I could visit her, spent the night, and then she would take me to the event the next morning.
Jemala and I spent the night eating our footlong subway sandwiches, chips, cookies, oranges, pomegranate, and drinking iced tea. We had a great time :) The next morning, I woke up with the thought in my head, “I’m going to meet Nikki Giovanni, today.” I was excited but I wasn’t really feeling as enthusiastic as I imagine I would feel. I thought maybe, I would be more nervous and exited when I actually get to the location.
We drive down to the campus and walk to the Tivoli Turnhalle. We get our breakfast (subway, again) and take a seat in the third row, close to the stage. Jemala had to leave when the event started (eleven) but while she stayed there, with me, a professor, who sat in front of us, was having a conversation with a friend of hers—and Jemala decided to join in the conversation. I don’t actually know what they were talking about because I wasn’t paying attention, but we eventually talked about me being emotional and excited for meeting Nikki because I was a big fan of her. The professor was so kind and sweet that she wanted to take me to the backstage and meet Nikki. She couldn’t find her at first, but she finally snagged a bit of time for me meet her. So, we got out of our chairs and I followed the professor. At the threshold of the backstage entrance, she extended out her hand and I held it, with apprehension and awry emotions. She urged me up the stairs and said, “Just go on and talk to her. She’s very personable” I felt like, while I was standing in some people’s way, that I was just some kid where people (even Nikki herself) would be like, “Who is this kid? What is he doing here?” I stood next to Nikki while she was talking to a student. I felt awkward because I felt like I had no purpose here. The other students and other faculty who are running this event had a purpose to be in the presence and to be speaking with Nikki. They were doing a work relevant to Nikki’s life’s work and speech. I said “Hi” to her when she turned to look at me, turned back to the student to finish the conversation (because she sensed that I wanted to speak with her), and I introduced myself. I shook her hand, said my name and tried, desperately to say what I wanted to say. I was nervous and very awkward. I told her how much of an inspiration she was to me, that I was a writer, too, and how much she’s inspired my work. I noticed that as I spoke to her, she seemed a bit confused and had that obligated reaction to be patient and polite while acting like she knows what I’m talking about. I also recognized that, because she’s so famous, there were other fans like me who reacted the same way. he problem, for me, was the fact that I had SO much I wanted to say and share but I didn’t know how to articulate it. I didn’t even prepare myself because I had only found out she was going to be at the campus, two days before. If my mother had sent my boxes, earlier, I would have created a copy of my packet of poems and would have given it to Nikki, as a gift. I even brought two printed poems that I was going to give her, but I never gave it to her because I felt that I’ve done too much already and that my poems weren’t really relevant to the black history speech. At the end of that very brief and awkward moment, I asked her for a hug and she gave me one. Then, I walked back to my seat and I felt like a kid.
Jemala left for class and Nikki gave her speech for about 45 minutes to an hour. I got half of her speech. The other half, I was completely zoned out. With my hard of hearing, it was kind of difficult to keep up, but I was just mostly still in shock that this was all real. She looked exactly how I watched her on youtube videos. She had those big glasses with a golden chain on it, she spoke with much enthusiasm, using her hands to give more depth to her speech, and she had that radiant smile and laugh. I would pretend to laugh while the others laughed, and clap when the others clapped. Although, being in the presence of all of this, I was filled with joy and inspiration.
I was reminded how special all of this was. I was reminded of the possibilities that I had and the things I could do. She is a well-known poet and activist who is giving a speech, on that stage (and she’s done countless more). She has a story to tell. She is an inspiration. While sitting on that chair and watching her, I thought: I wanted to do that, too. I recognized how much of a good poet I was and that I wanted to share my work, inspire others, and stimulate their emotions. I wanted to discuss life and share it with people. I even came up with a few ideas to start a poem or a few poems.
She finished her speech and answered some of the audience’s questions. I had wished that I could have come up with a question, or written a poem for her because I would have shared it. She was my inspiration since middle school. I thought, what question could I have asked in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? I couldn’t think of one. I was not prepared. SHe then did a book signing. I was next and I told her my name. SHe had said something but I didn’t catch it. So, I bent a little closer to her, with my hand over my ear, and said, “what?” and she repeated my name, ignoring what she had said. She signed my book and we thanked each other. The entire time, while I was standing in line waiting, I was so focused on the giving the professor a hug and give my gratitude. I was hoping to God that she would not leave the auditorium and that I would get a chance to thank her. After I got my book signed, I went up to her (she was also standing in line) and I gave her a hug, told her in her ear, “God bless you.” She said the same and I thanked her. I also asked her what she teaches so I could look her up. It meant the world to me that I got the chance to meet her and thank her and tell her, “God bless her.” I was so focused on that. She was such an angel to take me to the backstage and have me meet Nikki.
I realized and learned a few things from this event. I realized that, maybe I wasn’t as enthusiastic about meeting Nikki Giovanni was because I felt like that I had already known her. I had read her poetry throughout the years and watched her videos on youtube, numerous times. I also was surprised that I was able to act normal as if she’s just like the rest of us, as if she isn’t a celebrity, while being in the same room with her. Interacting with her was different, though, especially when it’s the first time and a limited time. I’ve always wanted to share my poetry with her but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. When you meet a celebrity, you have a lot of expectations for that person. You are so inspired by that person and you look up to that person that when you meet that person, you have this imagine in your head that basically project through yours eyes onto that celebrity. The truth is, the celebrity is really different, not necessarily in a bad way. I wish that I had more time to actually have a conversation with Nikki. She seems like an awesome person to talk to and to share thoughts with. However, I felt different about meeting her because I was not prepared to meet her, so, the idea of meeting her was not what I had expected for so long. It was awkward and short as if you had a long vivid dream and then you wake up losing the memory of that dream but you know you had that dream. I wanted to show her how good and worthy I was. I wanted to show her how much of a inspiration she was to me. I can recognize that my presence is enough, but it was too short of a moment to share that presence. It wasn’t as powerful as it could have been. It was overwhelming, for me, though. I received a lot of joy and good energy. I knew that she was looking right at me, several times, while she gave her speech. She also mentioned about being nervous because another student was nervous about coming onto the stage. I knew she was indirectly talking about me, too. “Don’t be nervous. You gotta get over that.”
She is very outspoken and straightforward, and it can be intimidating because she speaks the truth.
I also recognized that this entire day was set up by God. He heard my prayers. He heard me. He knew what I wanted and needed. I felt like meeting Nikki Giovanni was a BIG, BIG sign and that I am on the right track, in my life.
It was fate that I bought Nikki Giovanni’s book, years ago, at the bookstore (in Maryland), and have her sign it today. It was fate that I checked out the college website and found out Nikki was in Denver. It was fate that I knew Jemala because she drove me to the event and took me to the very auditorium. It was fate that she was there with me because if she wasn’t, I would have never spoken with the professor. It was because of Jemala, the professor saw that I existed and that I wanted to meet Nikki. And it happened. Jemala even stole a sign from the door so that could have it as a souvenir. This event made me realize the true blessing of having a best friend like her. I realized how much we loved each other, as friends. I realized how much she cares about me. This brought us closer together, as friends. I realized how special it was to meet Nikki, to meet the professor, and to have a friend like Jemala. God made all of this happen. He heard me. I feel that I am on the right track :)