nikki-giovanni_web.jpgMIAMI – In its 25th year and growing strong, the Miami Book Fair International has welcomed many writers from around the world.  This year, more than 400 authors with works in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Creole will come together at Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus to celebrate the Miami literary scene’s biggest event of the year.

“We’re very proud to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Miami Book Fair International because it is a cultural event that has transcended Miami to become a true world event,” said Dr. Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair International (MBFI).

The event will take place from Nov. 9 through 16. 

Showcasing the world’s best authors, including Ishmael Beah, Derek Walcott, Carlos Moore, George Hamilton, Wally Lamb, Amy Tan and Salman Rushdie, the enormous literary gathering has grown its author base in its quarter century of existence.

This year’s opening night will kick off with “An Evening With Tavis Smiley and Cornel West.” Of the many great authors, world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni will showcase three new books.

At 65, Giovanni is like the cool grandmother that only a lucky few get to have.  You can talk to her about anything.  Not only does she understand, but can give good advice to help in the long run.  She’s aware of the issues that affect young people every day.

Take Tupac Shakur, for example. As a memoriam to the late Hip-Hop artist soon after his death, she tattooed “thug life” on her body to signify her condolences to his mother and all of the young people mourning his death. 

“All living things mourned the death of that young man,” said Giovanni, an English professor at Virginia Tech.

“My generation, we’re not the Hip-Hop generation; we’re ahead of them,” said the Grammy-nominated poet.  “We’re much older.  But my generation needs to let the younger people know we mourn with them.”

Giovanni also has an affinity to reach out to young people and educate them about history, along with the operatic undertones of Hip-Hop. This inspired her to gather works that she published in Hip Hop Speaks to Children

An anthology of works from Giovanni herself, A Tribe Called Quest, Eloise Greenfield, Kanye West, Langston Hughes, Jill Scott, Mos Def, Common and Maya Angelou, Hip Hop Speaks educates young people on the cadence and rich tradition that birthed Hip-Hop culture, she said.

An avid fan of Hip Hop, Giovanni was a part of the Poetry Speaks to Children anthology, also.

This “black princess of poetry” isn’t all Hip Hop, though.  She is always excited to be admired for her work, but never stops her diligent effort to educate and speak up for young people.

She also recalls a sad chapter in Virginia Tech’s history.

Two dozen people were injured and 32 students and faculty members were killed when student gunman Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting rampage at the university on April 16, 2007.
The shootings left the campus shaking, Giovanni said, adding that she abhorred having to teach the gunman in her literature class before the shootings. 

Last year, she famously read a poem titled, “We Are Virginia Tech’’ at a memorial service for victims of the massacre.

“The shooting was a tragedy,” she told the South Florida Times. “We have an Internet that allows people to feed whatever instabilities they have.” 

Asked if she thought she could have done something to prevent the massacre, she simply said a general cannot prevent a suicide bombing.

Giovanni, whose passion is educating, speaking, and writing for the young masses, said she hopes to continue writing stories and picture books for children.

She has found a place for her talent in the children’s book arena.  Her latest projects include Hip Hop Speaks to Children, Grasshopper Song (based on the Aesop fable) and Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: an American Friendship

All three works can be seen and purchased at the book fair.

“Kids just don’t know much history,” Giovanni said.  “They’re just not being taught what a wonderful history we have.  If I can help that, I’m happy to do so.”

Photo: Nikki Giovanni


WHAT: Miami Book Fair International’s 25th Anniversary

: Nov. 9 -16      

: Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, 300 N.E. 2nd Ave., Miami     

: Free, but tickets must be reserved in advance on the book fair’s website.

: 305-237-3258 &

Nikki Giovanni will do a book reading at 12:30 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 15 at the Freedom Tower, Biscayne Blvd. and Northeast Sixth Street, Miami.