Nikki Giovanni’s “We Are Virginia Tech”


Click on Nikki Giovanni‘s picture to be taken to the CNN article from which you can watch and listen as she stirs the crowd with her poem “We Are Virginia Tech.”


by Nikki Giovanni

We Are Virginia Tech

We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devestated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think we are and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail.
We will prevail.
We will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.




27 responses to “Nikki Giovanni’s “We Are Virginia Tech””

  1. It is too bad that Nikki Giovanni is trying to use this situation as a platform to promote her own political agenda. It is supposed to be about the victims, not Giovanni’s political ideology.

    • Nikki Giovanni Wasz Not By Any Meansz Tryinq To Promote Her Own Political Aqenda . ; Jhust Lykk Any One in Blacksburq VA She Wasz Mourninq Because Of The Traqedy That Occured in Virqinia Tech That Week . ; Don’t Disrespect Anthinq About Thisz Because I Know That Thisz Came From The Heart .

  2. Hi Vince,

    But, Nikki Giovanni is not going to change what she thinks for the occasion. She delivered the message she felt to deliver, coming through for everyone else, even as she too grieves as much.

    I would rather look at what she did to recognize how she brought a needed and stirring moment to the mourning Hokie community, and mourning nation. It turns out she also was one of the first to realize and report how disturbed the gunman was–over a year ago. Whatever her politics, her insight has been right on throughout this ordeal from its genesis. As far as her poetry, I e-mailed her to tell her I thought her a laureate.

    Whether I vote for the same presidential candidate she votes for, or contribute to the same causes as she, or even buy her just-released book–she came through big time as a poet. She was the right poet for the time.

    Beyond that, she seems like a pretty cool lady.

    Thanks very much for both reading, and leaving your note.


  3. I finally found the words to Nikki Giovanni’s moving poem. Thanks.
    I have also read the posted comments. I didn’t look at it as Nikki trying to make some political statement but rather sharing with us that there are countless tragedies all over this world. And that regardless of what the tragedy is, NO ONE deserves it. I think
    She left a bold imprint on all of us throughout the world and gave us just a glimpse of the resiliency of the Virginia Tech community.

  4. Hi Susan,

    Out of respect, Nikki Giovanni kept out of the poem her disagreement with George Bush’s politics, as he was there. On the other hand, it is easy to surmise that the political approach within her poem would lead to knowing she would disagree with Bush, and simply not have the lines in. That circle leads back to the idea that it was the poem Giovanni wrote, and not anybody else’s–one that added poetry, beyond its obvious and effective greatness, in its self-censorship.

    Thanks for your response.


  5. ALI G: Booyakasha, chek i’ out. I is here wif my main man, Nikki G, my bro from Staines. How is you become poet?
    NIKKI G: We’re communicators, it’s in our blood.
    ALI G: Blood, West Side. Now sis, you, I mean, sorry you is my bro now, you is get some edumacation. You went to America, right?
    NIKKI G: I went to Fisk.
    ALI G: Tell me about how you is expelled for crack…
    NIKKI G: It wasn’t for smoking crack. I began school in 1960, was soon expelled, returned, and graduated in 1968. I did enroll and quickly drop out of two other schools after that, but I completed that one degree, my bachelor’s degree.
    ALI G: Wha’eve. You is still my main main, big shout out for poet Nikki G from VT.

  6. my reply to ms. g’s poem

    who made the walther/
    who made the glock/
    who sold them/
    who failed to pass laws retstricting them/
    who were the two terrorists invited to speak at vtech/
    why did not vtech ask these ?’s
    why will this happen again?

    i suggested to nikki- put on yr. cheerleaders outfit

    poet (and activist) dave in baltimore

  7. I can not believe that yall would even think of such things. I am a Virgina Tech hokie, and she was there for us when we needed her. She wasnt trying to see anything, or use this event for any personal reasions. She was being a HOKIE! Everything she said was true. No one deserves what happened, NO ONE! She has left a inprint in our hearts and soals. I thank her. She helped me, with loosing one of my best friends! ” WE ARE THE HOKIES, WE WILL PREVAIL, WE ARE.. VIRGINIA TECH!!!”

  8. brooke is kooool!!!!
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahano im not!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. dear nikki i go to baltimore freedom acedemy . im very much pleased to say that im doing a project on you i would love to say one of your poems in front of my class can you please contact me at baltimore freedom acedmy thier adress is 101 south coroline street please look up their website for their zip code (baltimore ,MD) md = Maryland
    nice job on the poem /speech im sure they were very inspired by that and i hope that they get better soon

  10. i noticed clattery does not comment on my offering
    from the other comments on ms giovanni’s shameful bit at the memorial i realise- do we have a long way to go in america to get to some peace…or not?
    guns- war- macho violence- she uttered not a word
    she spoke at our book festival in baltimore and said “if martin king” came back now he’d b wearing dreadlocks- that’s about when i left but there was a huge crowd of fawning worshippers (it wld seem)
    i talk to my black friends here in baltimore abt ms giovanni- they knew her “back in the day”
    complete burn out- is one response
    i think that petry is almost allways rare and un appreciated
    the crowd roars whatever it roars
    and that is what is covered
    best- ” frog in bog” dave in baltimore- mr. clattery- u can publish my address-best poet and activist- dme

  11. Hi David,

    I appreciate you coming by, and offering your thoughts.

    I was playing around with an awakening poem, or part of a poem today:


    Whatever is

    Whatever is or isn’t
    or was or wasn’t
    it is time to get out of bed.

    Whatever the events of the past, and however you frame it for history, the healing aspect of Nikki Giovanni’s poem exists for many.

    By the way, I noticed in your first post, that you were acknowledging Amiri Baraka’s Somebody Blew Up America poem, that he lost the NJ Laureateship through. My read of his poem, though, does not have the emphatic answers that yours seem to beg, but instead asks us to stand alongside ourselves while we ask such questions.

    Thanks very much.


  12. first of all- thank u for such a marvellous site- i think, as a fellow southern poet (i have a 6th sense that clattery is from richmond- y’all)- i sense a kindred spirit here- BUT the poem about waking up?

    think about wilfred owen or bert brecht and do not write such a poem- it is TOO inconsequential

    yes, waking up, especially as we age, becomes more difficult-more important!!! but- poetry should b abt what we do when we wake up- i.e. change the world for the better

    now- if we do not believe the world CAN b changed for the better- i suggest- we try anyway- why?

    if everything is absurd- we were entitled to do as we wished and we liked to b among optimists

    if there is meaning- oooo then WE WILL B PROVED RIGHT

    best, dave
    and today- let us all praise REYNOLDS PRICE

  13. Hi David,

    I thought that’s what the poem said. :o) Anyway . . .

    Speaking of Reynolds Price, my daughter lives in North Carolina.
    It’s very good that you came by.

    I am getting ready for tomorrow, Samina Malik Day, which is today already in some parts of the world.


  14. the virginia legislature has yet to pass meaningful gun legislation-eg- close gun show loopholes- ban assault weapons-

    i am glad that v tech has made a memorial that is a peace center tho i get the feeling they are so bland as to be ineffectual

    i think of va- compared to my fair state of md- as a backward state- sure was in the “war of secession”

    where is va’s monument to nat turner?

    i think of jackson and lee as racist butchers

    me- i like non-violence

    real poetry can address it- like brchet and owen- most does not

  15. i note that the first poster says this should be about the victims- that giovanni was promoting her own “agenda”- this post i would guess from the right

    then i come along from the non-violent left and accuse her of not being political enough!!!

    it’s this w me- if you want to help the victims and you are a poet- do not just write a poem to commiserate w the moment-write something that offers insight into fixing the problem- or

    you could also write an extremely moving eulogy or funeral poem, i guess

    it’s like mother jones said-“don’t mourn- organise”- in the case of the va tech or columbine massacres- what poem is the best?

    wouldn’t you say a poem that offers some solution to a damaged male psyche? a poem that helps solve the problem of guns in america?

    or you could offer a poem in the manner of brahms requiem- but then it would have to b very moving

    in giovanni’s case- the situation cried out for a poem that rustled feathers- exactly the kind of poem she might have given once- but now that she’s tenured- feels she cannot- i actually don’t feel she’d have been fired for speaking truth to power- but if she had it would have been a noble act and i doubt if her bottom line had been affected that much

    we make choices

    nikki and many other poets need to study radical, militant non-violent (or violent) left action

    read the poem Che read to the sugar cane workers- you will get my drift

    we rise together- we sink apart

    dave froginbog in baltimore

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