Poet Nikki Giovanni to speak Feb. 6 at UChicago

George E. Kent Lecture to feature renowned writer, activist

Nikki Giovanni, one of the nation’s most celebrated poets, will deliver the 37th annual George E. Kent Lecture on Feb. 6 at the University of Chicago.

Hosted by the Organization of Black Students, the Kent Lectures have drawn some of the country’s leading cultural and political voices. Held in recognition of Black History Month, the lectures are named in honor of the late George E. Kent, one of the first black professors to earn tenure at UChicago.

Free and open to the public, this year’s event will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Keller Center, home to UChicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Now 76 years old, Giovanni rose to fame in 1968 with her debut poetry collection Black Feeling, Black Talk. Her many honors since include the Langston Hughes Medal, seven NAACP Image Awards and a Grammy Award nomination for a spoken-word album. Her memoir Gemini was a finalist for the 1973 National Book Award.

Giovanni will be preceded on stage by Kenwood Academy High School students, who will perform spoken-word poetry. OBS is also working with non-profits such as the Olive Branch Mission to help local community members attend. The 2020 Kent Lecture was organized in partnership with Harris Public Policy, marking a first in the event’s history.

“We have worked tirelessly to innovate and expand for the 2020 Kent Lecture, making the event more accessible and impactful for both the University of Chicago and city of Chicago community at large,” said third-year Cinque Carson, a co-political chair for OBS.

“We are so excited to have Ms. Giovanni speak,” said OBS co-political chair Mylon Patton, a second-year. “We are hopeful that this lecture will mark another chapter in this ongoing struggle for civil rights.”

In addition to Giovanni—who also delivered the 2005 Kent Lecture—the series has hosted writer James Baldwin, scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., activist Angela Davis and civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander.

More recent speakers include Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, trans activist Janet Mock and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler.