Didn't get to go to the Fountain Square reopening on Saturday, but I have been tracking the controversy concerning a poem by local poet Nikki Giovanni. Giovanni sounds Italian, but she's African-American [I usually don't bring up the race of an individual, but I think it's pertinent to this story]. Giovanni was asked to prepare a poem about the city to set the tone for the new Fountain Square. In the midst of praising the city's attributes while using "I am" statements, she said the following about our African-American Secretary of State, "I am not a son of a bitch like Kenny Blackwell." First, Giovanni's poem "I Am Cincinnati" was just dumb. I swear, it wasn't worthy of middle school English. Read the entire text here and tell me I'm wrong. Here are some other lines that Giovanni dropped in this poem:
"I am Findlay Street market." "I am the best 3-way chili in the world." "I am Montgomery ribs."
And my personal favorite,
"I am the Cincinnati Western and Southern Tennis Championships, though I am played in Mason."
If these are the best lyrics that a Cincinnatian can pen about our wonderful metropolis, then we're screwed.
I have no problem with her calling out Blackwell. Work your free speech, lady, it's America. But find another venue; using a family/community oriented even to roll out your personal politics is tacky. And, while you're at it, find another medium. You're giving poetry a bad name.
Organizers of the event said they received the inspiration for this poem from Maya Angelou's poem at Bill Clinton's inauguration. Giovanni is no Maya Angelou. No one knew who this lady was before her poem. And now, they'll only know her as the loon who called the gubernatorial candidate an SOB.