Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni

Past Event: Tuesday, January 16, 2018

At Benaroya Hall — Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

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Poet, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni has captured America’s heart with her fiery, funny, and insightful verse for over thirty years. This event will include a Q&A discussion moderated by Nikkita Oliver.

Hailed by critics as the “Princess of Black Poetry,” Giovanni was an integral part of the Civil Rights era, re-establishing the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Fisk University in 1965, and was heavily involved in the Black Arts Movement of the early 1970’s.

Giovanni is the author of over 30 children’s books and poetry collections, and the winner of seven NAACP Image Awards among many other honors. Her book Gemini was nominated for a 1973 National Book Award, and The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Spoken Word in 2002. Music played a huge role in Giovanni’s childhood and in her work. Her early poetic recordings on wax, including Like a Ripple on a Pond and Truth Is on Its Way, made her a hip-hop icon, and she appeared as a special guest for the Afro Punk Festival in 2016.

Giovanni returns as relevant as ever with a new a poetry collection, A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter, a veritable memoir in verse “recalling the violence that permeated her parents’ marriage and her early life, and how she came to live with the grandparents who she credits with saving her life.” Her new book also explores the good and bad of aging and pays tribute to Giovanni’s most cherished poets, thinkers, and students, including her good friend Maya Angelou.

Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. After earning a B.A. from Fisk University in Nashville in 1967, she organized the Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati before entering graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. She is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 1987.

Nikkita Oliver

Nikkita Oliver is a Seattle-based creative, teaching artist, and anti-racist organizer. Nikkita was the Peoples Party candidate for Mayor of the City of Seattle in 2017. She is an attorney and holds a Masters of Education from the University of Washington as of March 2016 where she studied racial disproportionality and disparate impact in school exclusion. Nikkita is a teaching artist and case manager with Creative Justice, an arts based youth diversion program that provides alternatives to incarceration for youth who are court involved. She is the 2015 recipient of the Seattle Office of Civil Rights Artist Human Rights Leader Award, the 2014 Seattle Poetry Slam (SPS) Grand Slam Champion, the 2013, 2014 and 2016 Seattle Poetry Slam Women of the World Poetry Slam representative, a three time Seattle Poetry Slam national team member and coached the Seattle Poetry Slam national slam team twice. She has opened for Cornel West and Chuck D of Public Enemy and performed on The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert.

Selected Works

Visit Nikki Giovanni’s website for a full list of works.

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Know Before You Go


Nikki Giovanni will read from and discuss her work including her latest collection, A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter. The event will be followed by a Q&A discussion moderated by poet, teacher, lawyer and community activist Nikkita Oliver.



Open Books will have copies of select titles by Giovanni available for purchase at their table in the lobby.



There will be a book-signing onstage following this event.


Subscriber Notebooks

Are you a SAL subscriber? Don’t forget to pick up your complimentary 30th Anniversary notebook to use throughout the season for ideas, notes, quotes, and musings from SAL events and more. Pick up your notebook from the SAL info table in the lobby.


Grand Patron & Patron Reception from 6:30–7:15 at the Musicquarium!

Grand Patron and Patron ticket holders, join us for a chance to meet Nikki Giovanni at the pre-event reception at The Triple Door’s Musiquarium. The Musicquarium is located just across the street from Benaroya Hall off the corner of 3rd Ave. and Union St. Mingle and enjoy light bites and wine thanks to the Triple Door and Wild Ginger. The reception will take place from 6:30–7:15.


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Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall. The Recital Hall is located on the upper level of Benaroya Hall, up the stairs to the left side of the Box Office. Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Seneca Street exit and move into the left lane. Turn left onto First Avenue and proceed one block. Take the next right (at the Hammering Man sculpture) onto University Street. Continue up the hill two blocks to Third Avenue. Turn left onto Third Avenue. Continue to the next block and turn left onto Union Street. Make the next left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Southbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Denny Way/Downtown exit. Keep right and cross over Denny Way onto Wall Street. Proceed approximately five blocks and turn left onto Second Avenue. Continue south on Second Avenue approximately eight blocks. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Bus
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by bus and light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth Avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second Avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


All of our venues have accessible seating and listening devices available. Click here for more information about accessibility and ADA services at Benaroya Hall.

Please contact us at or 206.621.2230 x10 for more details and to let us know you’re coming so we can better accommodate your needs.