Don’t Deny My Voice: Virtual Seminars and Public Access

[By Goyland Williams]

Over the past month, the Project on The History of Black Writing and Don’t Deny My Voice NEH Institute have hosted three virtual seminars on black poetry. The first webinar, moderated by Professor Opal Moore, featured award-winning poet, Nikki Giovanni. Within an hour, Giovanni covered topics ranging from black churches, music, jazz, science and technology, poetry, space, and of course, poetry.

The range and depth of knowledge that Giovanni displayed was simply impressive. Not only has she mastered the craft of creating poetry, but she displayed a critical acumen over a range of topics and narratives of black life. At one point during the interview she observed, “We have to keep telling the story, because the Black American story is a great story.” To say that Giovanni is a raconteur is a understatement.

No matter how complex or simplistic, Giovanni never shyed away from difficult questions. Likewise, C. Leigh McInnis, Brenda Marie Osbey and Ishmael Reed have all answered the call of what it means to be a black writer in America: to disturb the peace. To do otherwise, is to avoid the seriousness of life and art.

Don’t Deny My Voice: Reading and Teaching African American Poetry has provided public access to writers second to none. From Nikki Giovanni to Ishmael Reed, these writers engage both the creative and the critical; the profane and the prophetic; the sacred and the secular. In other words, each have deeply engaged black experiences in all of its complexities.