Poetry: Nikki Giovanni
Poet, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni has been an outspoken voice within the African American community for thirty years. The author of many volumes, Giovanni has received accolades ranging from a Grammy nomination to more than twenty-five honorary degrees. Influenced by African American activists and artists, Giovanni has always been committed to the fight for equality. She believes in expressing the truth as she sees it, and in the potential for self-empowerment in each individual. Her earliest poems were inspired by the civil rights and black power movements, and her writings continue to reflect contemporary events and experiences in her own life, as well as in the broader African American community. Giovanni’s interest and involvement in hip hop is, therefore, not surprising. She is referenced in songs by such artists as Blackalicious, Nas, and Kanye West, and here she expresses her reciprocal support and respect for hip hop culture.
Read Nikki Giovanni's poet's statement
Installation: Shinique Smith
Born in Baltimore, Shinique Smith trained at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Today she lives in Brooklyn and works in a variety of artistic mediums, including painting, sculpture, collage, and video. The creative manner in which she incorporates materials—found, bought, and created—into bundled sculptures and three-dimensional installations is a hallmark of her art. While not a portrait in a traditional sense, each object resonates with personal significance or recalls something of the individual who owned it. Smith has found inspiration from a diverse range of sources. Japanese calligraphy and abstract expressionism have been important to her, although as a former member of a graffiti crew she has developed a body of work that owes much to the tradition of tagging public space. No Thief to Blame, Smith’s installation for “RECOGNIZE!,” was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and represents Smith’s creative response to Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “It’s Not a Just Situation.”
Read Shinique Smith's artist statement