Nationally awarded poet to speak at graduation

Poet and novelist Nikki Giovanni is scheduled to address more than 100 Dillard graduates at commencement at 8 a.m. May 8 at Avenue of the Oaks.


Immediately following commencement, a second-line will dance to the two new buildings on campus for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, according to university officials.


Baccalaureate services will be held the prior evening, at 6 p.m. Friday, May 7, on Avenue of the Oaks, featuring the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston.


Giovanni, whose work has spanned five decades, most recently was on campus last year, when a section of the Will W. Alexander Library was dedicated in her honor; she also was awarded an honorary doctorate. Giovanni shipped her personal collection of books to Dillard post-Katrina.


Assistant Registrar Robert Mitchell said some 127 students have applied for graduation, but the actual number that will graduate can be expected to change.


Faculty confirmation of graduating seniors will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, April 29, in Stern Hall.


Born Yolande Cornelia Giovannia in Knoxville, Tenn., the poet is a graduate of Fisk University and a distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va. With poetry inspired by the civil rights and black power movements, she has written more than two dozen books.


Giovanni earned an American Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, NAACP Image Award and a Grammy for best spoken-word album. She was commissioned by National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” to create an inaugural poem for President Obama.


(Thelisia Davis and Charley Steward contributed to this report.)