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Poet, Activist Nikki Giovanni to Help Inaugurate Frederick Douglass Center

By Jessica Weiss ’05

Nikki Giovanni, an acclaimed poet and revered voice on race, gender, love and family, will visit the University of Maryland to discuss her work and lifelong commitment to the arts and humanities.

The event from 5:30-7 p.m. April 24 will mark the official launch of the College of Arts and Humanities’ (ARHU’s) new Frederick Douglass Center for Leadership Through the Humanities, dedicated to engaging diverse communities around issues of social justice and equity and creating leaders with values rooted in the humanities.

Its activities, which include learning and funding opportunities, public events and more, seek to embody the core values of Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland and went on to become a prominent writer, orator, publisher, civil rights leader and government official.

Giovanni, who has written over two dozen books over the past 50-plus years, has received the Langston Hughes Medal and several NAACP Image Awards among many others, and has taught and lectured at universities all over the world.

ARHU Associate Dean and Douglass Center Director GerShun Avilez, professor of English; and ARHU Dean Stephanie Shonekan, professor of ethnomusicology, will have a conversation with Giovanni at the center’s launch event, followed by a Q&A with the audience.

“Giovanni is an artist, an activist, an educator—she captures everything that we think that Douglass’ legacy embodies,” said Avilez. “We couldn’t think of a better person to help us celebrate the launch of the center.”

The center has held programming since last summer, when it ran an online “Humanities Institute” for middle and high school teachers from across the region. (The institute will be held in person this summer.) And last month, it presented a screening of the documentary “Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power.” The event included a Q&A with three veteran organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who reflected on their activism in the 1960s.

The Frederick Douglass Center Launch With Poet Nikki Giovanni, which is co-sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and Arts for All, is at capacity, but stay tuned for information about a standby line.

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