Nikki Giovanni speaks to packed house

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Famed poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni spoke at Alive, in NoDa, last Friday. By the time she took the stage, the seats were full and the crowd was primed. Bluz Rogers, SlamCharlotte's Slam Master, was the MC. KB Entertainment performed a moving tribute. And, Jocelyn Ellis, winner of the 2008 Charlotte Music Award for Best R&B, wowed the crowd — despite technical difficulties.

Giovanni, a Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech, signed copies of her latest poetry book, Bicycles: Love Poems. In addition to reading from the book, the Civil Rights activist also offered the crowd her perspective on several of today's hot topics.

About the brouhaha over Illinois' Sen. Roland W. Burris, she said, "In all of Illinois there has to be one good black man. I know one, Jesse Jackson Jr."

Regarding Obama's campaign slogan, "Change we can believe in," she said, "Barack is not the change, he's the change that brings the change."

She also said she believed Martin Luthur King Jr.'s dream wasn't fulfilled when Obama took office in January. Giovanni believes King's dream was a just world, saying the United States must stop bombing other countries and take care of itself. She specifically called for the Ninth Ward in New Orleans to be rebuilt.

Saying she started writing love poems to heal after personal tragedy, she acknowledged that love is a broad concept. Toward the end of her presentation she read a poem about her love of the NBC game show "Deal or No Deal." If you make it on the show, she advised, "Don't take people you know."

The event, co-sponsored by RealEyes Bookstores and the Charlotte Literary Festival, is part of the "Change is Coming to Charlotte" series. Proceeds benefited the festival and group's the "Kick off to Writing" scholarship.

Click here to see photos from the event.

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