At the end of today’s convocation at Virginia Tech, esteemed poet and professor Nikki Giovanni had an unenviable task.

The poet, who first became known as the “Princess of Black Poetry” in the late Sixties, and who is known for her love of Tupac Shakur (forever immortalized in a Thug Life tattoo she proudly wears on her body), had the eyes of the country upon her. She had to follow prayers by President Bush and close the ceremony with a speech that addressed Monday’s unfathomable tragedy. This is what she said.

(Click here to see the stirring video).

We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to know when to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again. We are Virginia Tech. We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech. The Hokier Nation embraces our own with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness.

We are the Hokies. We will prevail, we will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.”

I think her words were brave and beautiful.
My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

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Mica says:
April 18, 2007, 1:46 am
Here's a link to the video of her amazing speech:
edw says:
April 18, 2007, 3:25 am
Thank you Mica for posting the link. Thank you Bella for posting this story. What a powerful speech. What a tragedy.
Liz says:
April 18, 2007, 4:09 am
This is an amazing speech. It sent chills down my spine. My roomate's two cousins are students are Virginia Tech. Needless to say, she was scared out of her mind when she heard this happened. Thank the Lord, her cousins are ok. Even though I don't know anybody down in V Tech that died, I am still deeply saddened and terrified by this horrific event. Being a college student myself, I questioned what I would do if a shooter burst into my classroom and began to kill us one by one. I don't know. I don't know what I would do. My school is located on a hill, in Waterville, Maine. The middle of nowhere basically. I think I would run into the woods and hide. I don't know how to make sense of this. I am about 9 hours away from home, and when I heard what happened, I wanted to run into my mother's arms, but I couldn't. It's just terrible to think these people are never coming home. My heart goes out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy.
Mica says:
April 18, 2007, 5:48 am
Liz, Yeah, it's crazy that even though I graduated from college in 2005 (in big city Chicago, no less), yesterday, I *still* felt very connected to the shootings and I've never been to Virginia. I watched the brave men and women tell their stories of coming face to face with the gunman and I am amazed, because I know for a fact if it were me in there, I would have been very terrified and probably would have gone into some sort of shock. How these college students didn't do that, and were able to push through the fear, I will never know. I mourn the lost of every single person killed today and I pray for their family and friends.
AndSoThen says:
April 18, 2007, 5:48 am
Thanks so much Bella for posting this, I needed it...I had to have a moment and turn the TV off when they introduced Bush with words about part of his job as President is to console and comfort and that is why he came to VA. My heart aches for the destruction there. Young people lost, the pain of the families. It takes me back to New takes me back to sitting and wondering where was our President when we were dying in the streets. The kids were of every background in VA, they seemed from everything I have read to be a close knit campus. I wish for them help to see their way thru this
bella says:
April 18, 2007, 7:46 am
One of my favorite, favorite writing professors now teaches at VT. He actually taught the shooter last year, but had little personal interaction with him. So I didn't want to post anything until I heard back from him and knew he was OK. And he is, thank God. My heart really goes out to the families whose children won't be coming home this summer. The kids who won't be graduating. The professors who won't ever teach again. I can't even imagine what could have driven this kid to do what he's done. It's hard to wrap your mind around something as tragic as this. And the fact that it's in the same week as the anniversary of Colombine, even moreso. I really hope that the current political debate begins to include discussions about gun control in America.
Niki says:
April 18, 2007, 9:39 am
I, ike everyone, was shocked and saddened to hear about the events at Virginia Tech. I cannot imagine the horror people faced as the events were unfolding. The discussions on gun control are already happening--one side says that this is proof that we need more gun law reform (especially in VA, a state that is proud of it's gun-owning heritage) and the other says that if the students had been allowed to carry weapons on campus, the madman would've been stopped earlier. I really can't think about any of that stuff now. I only send my thoughts and prayers to anyone who was directly affected.
Tysha says:
April 18, 2007, 9:58 am
Yes, everyday I think about and pray about the students, the families. As the previous comment I really can't focus on the rights or wrongs of having guns in VA. I am a Native of Virginia, it's good to see the outpouring compassion of people coming together in Va and everywhere in support of VA Tech. Not everyone in Virginia is for having guns, some are turned off by it. Then there are those who think it is necessary. Although I am no longer in Va my heart is saddened to know this happened there. I would still feel the same way if it happened anywhere else. Thank you Afrobella for featuring Niki Giovanni she is awesomely talented. I first heard of her in Va when I got a free calender from Sears one year of her work printed on it. She is phenomenal with her words.
kia says:
April 18, 2007, 10:13 am
thanks for posting this bella!
Auragirl says:
April 18, 2007, 12:38 pm
When I watched this video, I remember thinking WOW after Nikki Giovanni spoke. Her remarks were short, yet powerful and very relevant. I loved the "We are Virginia Tech" part. Remarkable!
Mona says:
April 18, 2007, 3:53 pm
WOW. That's all I can really say. I hope that everyone that heard her words (in person, on tv, online) found some sort of solace in them. Bella thank you for posting this.
AJ says:
April 18, 2007, 5:16 pm
that brought tears to my eyes. so wonderful and raw and just...wonderful. i love Niki G. And I just pray everyday for the families, victims, and the university as a whole that one day, they will have some peace. ALJ
Vince says:
April 18, 2007, 8:02 pm
It is too bad that Nikki Giovanni is trying to use this situation as a platform to promote her own political agenda. It is supposed to be about the victims, not Giovanni’s political ideology.
bella says:
April 18, 2007, 9:10 pm
I don't know if we're reading the same news articles, Vince. I haven't read anything but praise for her speech.
Asha says:
April 18, 2007, 10:32 pm
@ Vince, I believe she is a professor at the school. I am getting sooooo angry looking at the videos he sent to NBC on the news. I want to slap him so hard.
carla says:
April 19, 2007, 12:45 pm
Nikki Giovanni, a tenured professor, threatened to quit in 2005 if he wasn't removed from her poetry class, so like the other (female) professors in the English department who reported his behavior to the administration she has more standing than other professors to speak up at this time.
olufunke says:
April 19, 2007, 2:46 pm
may we all be healed.
lola gets says:
April 19, 2007, 10:29 pm
I saw her speech on the news. What a powerful and well-needed message!
JUstMYwOrD says:
May 3, 2007, 4:25 pm
To Vince: What in the world makes you believe someone's incredible ability to "pearl string" acts of injustice and violence together in order to identify the common ground of suffering and tragedy in our world is an attempt to promote political ideology? Your kind of mindset is proof of a huge problem in America, and consequently the a major reason and proponent to the spread of violence, insensitivity, and suffering. I like what Barak Obama said in reference to this horrific national tragedy that happened on April 13th, (and I paraphrase), "hatred comes in many forms, and will not end until each person see's their neighbor as themselves."


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