A few months ago a visit by conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald at Bucknell University prompted massive unrest among the campus community — including a picket line protest of her speech and discussions of blacklisting those on campus who supported her guest lecture.
Yet an upcoming visit by celebrated yet controversial poet and Virginia Tech English Professor Nikki Giovanni, whose body of work includes violent vocabulary regarding race, appears to be largely welcomed at Bucknell.
It’s a contradiction not lost on Bucknell University sociology Professor Alexander Riley, a faculty member affiliated with the Bucknell Program for American Leadership and Citizenship, also known as BPALC, which aims to support free speech and foster viewpoint diversity but has been targeted with aggressive protests on campus, most recently for hosting Mac Donald.
Riley said BPALC is often accused of being “agents of hate,” while progressive invitees brought to Bucknell by leftist campus groups are largely celebrated. He cited as examples the decision to bring Antifa scholar Mark Bray, known for advocating political violence, for a guest lecture in September on the eve of 9/11, as well as the upcoming visit by Giovanni.
The celebrated poet and professor has been invited by the Griot Institute at Bucknell University for a guest lecture Jan. 29 under the theme of “Black Radical Thought and Art.”
“The Griot 2020 spring series will explore aspects of black radical thought as a continuing presence in the historical and contemporary discourse(s) on ‘racism,’” its website states. “One constellation of thought is often referred to as black radical thought. The iterations of this Griot series, being offered in conjunction with the Program in Africana Studies and the Department of English, will reflect on the meanings, significances and impacts of this ever-expanding and multifarious realm of thought in confronting the intractable presence of racism in and as the American project.”
Giovanni’s body of work includes provocative poetry from decades ago that’s laced with profane and violent language. In her piece, “The True Import Of Present Dialogue, Black vs. Negro,” it reads in part:
Can you kill
Can you kill
Can a nigger kill
Can a nigger kill a honkie
Can a nigger kill the Man
Can you kill nigger
Huh? nigger can you
The poem also includes stanzas asking if black people know how to kill in different ways, and if they can “stab-a-Jew” or “run a protestant down with your ’68 El Dorado,” adding in parentheses “that’s all they’re good for anyway.”
In another of her poems titled “The Great Pax Whitie” it reads in part:
In the beginning was the word
And the word was
And the word was nigger
And the word was death to all niggers
And the word was death to all life
And the word was death to all
peace be still
Giovanni’s work also includes celebrated poems such as “Knoxville, Tennessee,” which honors summers in the Volunteer State, and she also wrote a children’s book about Rosa Parks, her personal friend. She also writes many poems about love.
Giovanni crept into the headlines in 2007 following the mass shooting at Virginia Tech after it was revealed that the gunman was a former student in her class. But Giovanni had campus officials remove him from her class a year before the massacre because his poetry was “intimidating” and his behavior “menacing,” according to reports.
Professor Riley told The Fix that “the mainstream media cheered her for seeking to remove him from the class because of his ‘dark poetry,’ never hinting that he might possibly have gotten some cues for murderous and hateful imagery in poetry from his teacher.”
As for the Griot Institute, Riley said it “is something of a statement about how deeply entrenched far left worldviews are on this campus that so few people bat an eyebrow over what goes on at the Griot Institute.”
Additional spring talks under the “black radical thought” lecture series include “Breaking Up the Paradigm of Racial Stratification and Iterative Concentration of Economic and Political Power: A New Vision Beyond Neoliberalism” as well as “Black Feminist Activism, Art and Afterlives of The Transnational Campaign to Free Angela Davis.”
Meanwhile, Riley said, there is already talk on campus of protesting Bucknell Program for American Leadership and Citizenship’s spring programming, which will include a talk by Victor Davis Hanson, author of “The Case for Trump.”
Giovanni and Bucknell campus officials did not respond to numerous requests for comment from The College Fix over the last two weeks.
According to her bio on Bucknell’s website, “Giovanni has received numerous awards in the course of her career, including seven Image Awards from the N.A.A.C.P., more than two-dozen honorary degrees, the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, the Langston Hughes Medal for Poetry, and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award; additionally, Oprah Winfrey recognized her in 2005 as one of twenty-five ‘Living Legends.’”