Rule breaker, champion of women and education, and recovering sports journalist. Deputy editor of @zoramag @medium.

With her new book ‘Make Me Rain,’ the 77-year-old outspoken poet adds to her revolutionary body of work

Portrait photo of Nikki Giovanni against a black background.
Portrait photo of Nikki Giovanni against a black background.

We know Nikki Giovanni as a guiding light, an outspoken truth-teller, and an award-winning author. She’s one of our living legends, an honor Oprah bestowed upon her 14 years ago. But Nikki — as she insists on being called — doesn’t fuss over titles or accolades. “I’m just a poet,” she tells ZORA. That description has become her common refrain and the title of a poem in her newest collection of poetry and prose, Make Me Rain, released today. “All I have are words,” she writes in the poem. “And maybe a bit of hope.” Nikki’s six decades worth of work is sustained by that pairing. …


Hey, Fam:

It’s a rallying cry, an expression adorned on merch, and a popular phrase tweeted, especially after elections: Thank Black women. The gratitude is warranted, but insufficient. We save democracy at the polls, clean up messes at work, and move the culture in every corner of the world. I’m talking about the breadth of Black women who are doctors, grocery store clerks, teachers, grassroots activists, and poets. The Stacey Abramses, Nse Ufots, and LaTosha Browns in our communities. The mothers and caretakers. And all the Black women in between who hold this country together.

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We do the damn thing, and are worthy of far more than a hat tip. It is not, after all, our job to repeatedly shoulder burdens and be saviors for this country. We ain’t trying to be America’s safety net. Yet, here we are, putting in the work in hopes that our votes, our decisions, and our moves will liberate us — thus freedom for all. As the Combahee River Collective statement tells us, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” …


ZORA Fam,

If you haven’t gotten into Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales yet, you’re missing out. Right now, it’s the only thing getting me through the week — and month, actually. Heaux Tales is a necessary escape from what feels like a bonus month of 2020. Something to get lost in and saaang out loud when the music moves you.

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The colossal power of Sullivan’s voice drives Heaux Tales, but it’s the 33-year-old’s pen game and story structure that make this concept album her best work yet. Between the bops and ballads, the interludes — tales from women in Sullivan’s life — provide an irresistible resonance. …


Yesterday’s terror at the U.S. Capitol was yet another example of whiteness’ thievery

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Yesterday, many of us watched whiteness at work. I was in my living room, glued to CNN, unable to peel myself away from witnessing armed white terrorists invade the U.S. Capitol with caucacity and Confederate flags. On the same day members of Congress counted electoral votes to confirm Joe Biden as our next president, they had to seek safety from the riotous mob. A coup attempt unfolded. The imminent next step of “stand back and stand by.”

Despite having a full slate of work, I couldn’t look away. After 1:30 p.m. Eastern, my day was toast. I lost my focus to the pro-Trump extremists on my screen. I swapped texts with friends, remembering a time when politicians had the nerve to urge us to reach across the aisle to heal as a nation. I took a short walk in my Harlem neighborhood, headphones in tow, in an attempt to distance myself from the news — only to turn to NPR and listen for updates. I scrolled through Twitter and Instagram, sinking further into an abyss of video footage, memes, and commentary about the mayhem. A noose was erected outside of the building. One person was shot and killed by police. Only 52 arrests were made so far. …


ZORA Fam,

Yesterday, many of us watched whiteness at work. I was in my living room, glued to CNN, unable to peel myself away from witnessing white terrorists invade the U.S. Capitol with caucasity and confederate flags. On the same day members of Congress were set to count electoral votes to confirm Joe Biden as our next president, they had to seek safety from a riotous mob. A coup attempt unfolded. The imminent next step of “stand back and stand by.”

Despite having a full slate of work, I couldn’t look away. After 1:30 P.M. EST, my day was toast. I lost my focus to the pro-Trump extremists on my screen. I swapped texts with friends, remembering a time when politicians had the nerve to urge us to reach across the aisle to heal as a nation. I took a short walk in my Harlem neighborhood, headphones in tow, in an attempt to distance myself from the news — only to turn to NPR and listen for updates. I scrolled through Twitter and Instagram, sinking further into an abyss of video footage, memes, and commentary about the mayhem. One person was shot and killed by police. Only 52 arrests were made, so far. A stark contrast to how peaceful protestors at Black Lives Matter marches have been treated over the years. …


The former president should let the activists do the talking — and defining

Former President Obama speaking against a black background.
Former President Obama speaking against a black background.

During these last four years, I wondered why former President Barack Obama was relatively quiet as our nation morphed into a raging dumpster fire. I don’t expect politicians to be saviors, but I thought the Hope Evangelist could help extinguish some fears with a few inspiring sermons like he did back in the day. Now, with a new book to promote, A Promise Land, Obama can’t stop talking. Though I really wish he would.

In a recent interview with the Snapchat political show Good Luck America, Obama cautioned activists against using “defund the police” messaging. “If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everyone fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like ‘defund the police.’ But, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it,” he said. …


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ZORA Fam,

During these last four years, I wondered why former President Barack Obama was relatively quiet as our nation morphed into a raging dumpster fire. I don’t expect politicians to be saviors, but I thought the Hope Evangelist could help extinguish some fears with a few inspiring sermons like he did back in the day. Now, with a new book to promote, A Promise Land, Obama can’t stop talking. Though, I really wish he would.

In a recent interview with the Snapchat political show Good Luck America, Obama cautioned activists against using “defund the police” messaging. He said:

“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everyone fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like ‘defund the police.’ But, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it. Which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want…


ZORA Fam,

’Tis the season for shopping. Or so we tell ourselves. Though some of us have been shopping all year long due to a pandemic that has given way to increased screen time and an uptick to “virtual window shopping.” I like to think I’m disciplined with my money, but I do have my moments. You know, those times when you’re scrolling Instagram and an ad catches your eye? Perhaps it’s the ring light you tell yourself you need for better lighting during online meetings and events. Or maybe it’s another notebook (or two), though you’re not done with the three you’re already writing in. I’ve made these purchases in the past few months. …


ZORA Fam,

More than 44 million Americans are saddled with student loan debt, collectively amassing 1.6 trillion dollars. This group includes me and my five-figure arrears after earning my bachelors in 2005 and my master’s degree in 2011. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I really started to pay down my debt. Or at least I thought I was. With growing interest, balances don’t dip much in a few months, or even in a few years.

My story is a result of an odious system underpinning something much bigger. As Nicole Froio writes in her latest story for ZORA, “a crucial aspect of the effects of student loan debt is being overlooked: its role in reinforcing the racial wealth gap.” …


ZORA Fam,

The lengths to which Donald Trump and his cronies will go in an effort to block their eviction from the White House are not surprising. Some call it a coup attempt. Others urge us to drop the militarized-language. I lean on ZORA contributing writer Nicole Froio’s incisive description for what we are witnessing: “a power grab by an autocratic, white supremacist authoritarian who has previously told the violent far-right group Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by.’”

➡️ Read: We Need All Hands on Deck to Stop a Coup

No matter how you frame it, Trump’s recent threats and actions in his refusal to transfer power should be taken seriously. His track record is proof we must continue to pay close attention. We must also keep a watchful eye on his enablers — the spineless Republicans in Congress and the 71 million pro-Trump voters — whom we will still have to contend with after January 20. I am hopeful that President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in on that day, without delay, though the magnitude of the challenges they face between now and then — and beyond — is largely unknown. And that’s because we have no idea what else is in the Trump administration’s dirty bag of tricks or how the Senate will shake out with two pivotal seats up for grabs in Georgia. The outcome of the latter will dictate how much Biden can do and undo during his presidency. …

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