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12th Annual Afropunk Brooklyn Festival

Poet Nikki Giovanni speaks during the 12th Annual Afropunk Brooklyn Festival at Commodore Barry Park on August 27, 2016, in Brooklyn, New York. | Source: Mireya Acierto / Getty

Legendary poet, author and activist Nikki Giovanni recently sat down for an interview with New York Times journalist David Marchese where the 78-year-old icon shared her thoughts, her ideological views and her faith, among other things. Now, if you’re familiar with the Black Feeling, Black Talk writer then you know when Giovanni answers a question, Giovanni answers a question. In fact, she even admitted to Marchese during the interview that “people don’t like to ask me questions, because I give long answers.”

And she does—she gives long answers. But she also gives the right answers.

So when the subject came to the subject of Kenosha shooter and right-wing killer bae hero Kyle Rittenhouse, Giovanni didn’t bother mincing words—she told it like it is and said all the things rational people have been saying, albeit with significantly more elegance.

“Generally speaking, does group identification strike you as a limited way of thinking about what it means to be a person?” Marchese asked.

“I sincerely—and I mean no disrespect—think it’s a stupid way,” Giovanni responded. “I know it must be difficult to let things go. But I am 78, and I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen scared white men who shoot unarmed Black men because they say, ‘Oh, I was afraid for my life.’ Or we just let that kid— what’s his name? Kyle?”

“Rittenhouse?” Marchese asked for clarification. (But he knew. He knew who she was talking about, and he likely knew the Black Judgement author was about to go smooth off.)

“Yeah. I believe that it frightened him to think that he somehow might lose his life, and yet his life was no more important than anybody else’s,” Giovanni said. “Couldn’t he realize that he was no different from any caterpillar walking on the sidewalk? If you can avoid stepping on it, then it will be a butterfly. But he chose to step on the caterpillar. He chose to stop whatever beauty would be. Now all he will ever be remembered for is that he killed somebody. So we know what his life is going to be: nothing. And I’m glad. Somebody said to me: ‘Nikki, that’s not right. You’re supposed to be a Christian.’ I am, but I’m not that Christian.”

And at that moment, the interview became a tabernacle, and the tambourines rang fiercely, and the congregation said “Amen,” and a mighty raid did fall.

But Giovanni wasn’t done just yet.

“Couldn’t we feel anger at a culture that creates a situation where a 17-year-old is out on the street with an AR-15 and also hope for Kyle Rittenhouse to ultimately find some meaningful redemption after that awful situation?” Marchese asked, to which Giovanni said “F**k no!”

OK, that’s not what she said.

“No. I don’t think there’s any hope for redemption for him,” she answered. “One of the reasons that I don’t is that I as a Christian know that Jesus didn’t love everybody. When he was on the cross, he turned to the man on the right to comfort him, and the man on the right said, ‘You say you’re God, but you’re up here with the rest of us.’ Jesus, he realized, That’s a fool, and I’m not going to waste my time on a fool. He turned to the man on his left, and the man on his left said, “I do believe you are God.” And Jesus said to him, ‘You will be with me today in heaven.’ You can’t assume that every fool is going to be saved. Because they’re not.”

Rittenhouse is a fool—a fool who took lives and got away with it. Literally, who is anyone to offer him redemption?

Thank you, Nikki Giovanni. You certainly are a national treasure.


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