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‘Nikki-Rosa’ is an autobiographical poem written by Nikki Giovanni. It is a poem that encourages the readers to unlearn their stereotypes about the Black community.
About the Poet:
Yolande Cornelia a.k.a Nikki Giovanni (1943–) is an eminent American poet. She is also a notable social activist. Famous works of hers include “Nikki-Rosa”, “A Library”, and “Make Me Rain”.
This poem consists of 33 lines encompassed in a single stanza. It is written in simple, colloquial language.
Analysis and Summary:
childhood remembrances are always a drag if you’re Black you always remember things like living in Woodlawn with no inside toilet and if you become famous or something they never talk about how happy you were to have your mother all to yourself and how good the water felt when you got your bath from one of those big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in and somehow when you talk about home it never gets across how much you understood their feelings as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale and even though you remember your biographers never understand your father’s pain as he sells his stock and another dream goes And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that concerns you and though they fought a lot it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference but only that everybody is together and you and your sister have happy birthdays and very good Christmases and I really hope no white person ever has cause to write about me because they never understand Black love is Black wealth and they’ll probably talk about my hard childhood and never understand that all the while I was quite happy
The poem begins with the poet describing her childhood experiences to be a “drag”, being a coloured person. People always believe that anyone hailing from “Woodlawn”, a rather impoverished place where black communities lived, would have no “inside toilet”. Being famous, according to the poet, involved others assuming that they were always miserable. In the next few lines, the poet brings out the happy memories associated with her childhood. She shares how she was happy to have her mother with her, bathing in warm water in a multi-purpose bathtub, and having family meetings in Hollydale. She then mentions those who stereotype her as “biographers”, stating that they focus on their poverty, not the pain they suffer in the loss of yet another ‘American dream’. Again, they focus on the alcoholism in their community, not their happy familial gatherings where they celebrate festivals. The poem ends with the poet asserting that “Black love is Black wealth” and that she hopes no “white person” even writes on her as they would “never understand that/ all the while I was quite happy”.
The poem writes in a simple manner to relate to the audience. Her non-capitalisation of words especially strikes out between the word “white” and capitalised “Black”. This shows the importance she sheds on her own community. By reiterating her happy childhood thus, the poet attempts to subvert the stereotypes revolving around their community and also breaks down the notion of capitalistic ideals being considered to be the pinnacle of happiness.
This is a thought-provoking poem. It educates the reader to not judge and stereotype a person on the basis of their skin colour and to understand that each person has their own life.