2015 schedule of events

Friday, October 2

5:00 p.m. “After Obama: An Assessment of Post-Obama America and the Racial Divide,” Panel Discussion among African Americans in the community, Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies.

7:00 p.m. Screening of Angela Bassett in The Rosa Parks Story, Shepherdstown Film Society, discussion to follow in Reynolds Hall with Dr. Julia Sandy.

Monday, Ocotober 5

7:00 p.m. “Civil Rights, Human Rights” Lecture/Discussion with Dr. Julia Sandy, Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies

Tuesday, October 6

7:00 p.m. “A Celebration of Appalachian Storytellers and a Musical Interlude by Kaziah White on the Poetry of Frank X Walker, ‘Ambiguity over the Confederate Flag’: The Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Homer Hickam Volume VII,” Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, the event sponsored by The WV Center for the Book and The Shepherd University Foundation; Anthology Reception following the event, Scarborough Library Reading Room

Wednesday, October 7

9:30 a.m. Visit with Martinsburg, Jefferson, and Berkeley Springs students at Martinsburg High School.

11:00 a.m. Nikki Giovanni Reading at Martinsburg Public Library and Reception.

7:00 p.m. "The Writing Life, with Nikki Giovanni," Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies (Giovanni discusses her work, the writing process, her journey toward authorship and publication)

Thursday, October 8

Noon Lunch with Senior Moments Book Club

3:00-4:30 p.m. Writers Master Class, Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies

8:00 p.m. Scarborough Society Lecture and Awards Ceremony at Erma Ora Byrd Hall (Nikki Giovanni receives the Appalachian Heritage Writer's Award and presents her Scarborough keynote address, “Chasing Appalachia, Looking for Home,” followed by reception and book signing. The WV Fiction Competition awards will be presented by Giovanni.

Friday, October 9

7:00 p.m. Old-time Stories from Appalachia with Ballad Singer and Storyteller Sheila Kay Adams, Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies 8:00 p.m. Appalachian Square Dance, King Street.

Saturday, October 10

Appalachian Heritage day-long Festival and 8:00 p.m. Concert. at Frank Theater.

Nikki Giovanni: 2015 Writer-in-Residence

Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in the all-black neighborhood of Lincoln Heights in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her summers were spent at her grandparents’ home in Knoxville, where she eventually moved to attend high school. Encouraged to become part of an early matriculation program at seventeen, Giovanni attended Fisk University, her grandfather’s alma mater, from which she graduated in 1967. Giovanni came from a family of teachers who valued education and expected their children to follow in grandparents’ (John Brown and Emma Lou Watson) and parents’ (Gus and Yolanda Giovanni) footsteps and get university degrees.

As a child, Giovanni was a risk taker, highly intelligent, immensely creative, charismatic, and a lover of language. Influenced by her fiery, outspoken and free-thinking grandmother Emma Lou, Giovanni became a singular, individualistic child—her mentor and middle school teacher Sister Althea Augustine writing of her: “. . . she was a brilliant, precocious child, an avid reader and independent thinker and doer. She would come to school at her convenience and leave the same regardless of school regulations” (qdt. in Virginia Fowler’s Nikki Giovanni, A Literary Biography). Early on Giovanni became fascinated by the grace, intrepidity, and shear stamina of her people in the face of social injustice, and it was clear that no common path would be hers.

After graduating from Fisk, Giovanni published her first book, Black Feeling Black Talk (1967), and after a short stint in the Social Work program at the University of Pennsylvania and another at the School of Fine Arts at Columbia University in an MFA program where she was told she couldn’t write, she moved to New York where she settled into what she knew very well she could do better than anyone else--writing well--and soon made a name for herself as part of the Black Arts Movement.

Over the years since, Giovanni has been incredibly prolific, publishing more than thirty volumes of nonfiction, poetry, books for children, and essays. Her autobiography, Gemini, was a finalist for the National Book Award; Love Poems, Blues: For All the Changes, Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, and Bicycles were significant in garnering for her three of seven NAACP Image Awards. Giovanni was the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award and the Langston Hughes Medal for Outstanding Poetry. In 2004, she was nominated for a Grammy for her poetry collection on CD, Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection. Today, Giovanni holds the Distinguished Professor in English position at Virginia Tech.