The 2016 Women’s Leadership Award winner was celebrated poet Nikki Giovanni, who was named one of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 “Living Legends.”
Nikki Giovanni is a writer, commentator, activist, and educator. One of the most celebrated poets of our time, her best-selling anthologies, poetry recordings, essays and children’s books have spurred movements and inspired songs, turned hearts and enlightened generations.
In 1968, Nikki published her first collection of poetry, “Black Feeling, Black Talk.” By her early 20s she emerged as an icon of the 1960’s-era Black Arts Movement and has since published more than 30 books. Her latest is “Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid,” a collection of poetry, essays and memoir. Nikki has been honored with an unprecedented seven NAACP Image Awards and was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award. She received the Langston Hughes Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters, has been nominated for a Grammy in the category of Spoken Word and was a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2005, she was named one of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends.” Nikki has authored three New York Times and Los Angeles Times Best Sellers, highly unusual for a poet.
She is currently the University Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 1987. Yolanda Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a son and a granddaughter, and lives in Christiansburg, Virginia.