World-acclaimed author, educator and poet Nikki Giovanni will read her “Knoxville, Tennessee” poem during the unveiling of a Mulvaney Street historic marker at Cal Johnson Recreation Center.
Mayor Madeline Rogero and other City officials will host Nikki Giovanni at 10 am, Thursday, May 23, 2019, to assist with the unveiling of a historic marker near the entrance to the Cal Johnson Recreation Center at 507 Hall of Fame.
Knoxville native Giovanni is a world-acclaimed author, educator, poet and is currently a Virginia Tech Distinguished Professor. Giovanni was born to Jones “Gus” and Yolande Cornelia Sr Giovanni at the Old Knoxville General Hospital. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, but spent summers with her maternal grandparents, John Brown and Louvenia Terrell Watson at their Knoxville home at 400 Mulvaney Street (since renamed Hall of Fame Drive). She and her sister played at Cal Johnson Park. She was educated at Austin High School and graduated with honors from Fisk University, which was her grandfather’s alma mater.
Giovanni was commissioned to write a poem for the inauguration of former President Barack Obama. She also wrote a xxxxx after the Virginia Tech school shooting that she read at the memorial service.
Giovanni has been honored with the Langston Hughes Award, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, seven NAACP Image Awards, Oprah Winfrey’s 25 Living Legends, Woman of the Year by Ebony, Ladies Home Journal, and Mademoiselle Magazines, and many more recognitions.
One of her best-known essays is “400 Mulvaney Street,” it recounts her grief at the loss of her grandparents’ house and the surrounding African-American neighborhood to a Knoxville “urban renewal” project in the 1960s. Cal Johnson Park is all that remained of the cherished Mulvaney Street of Giovanni’s childhood.
The historic marker honors the location of Giovanni’s grandparents’ home and recognizes the devastating loss to her family and to many other African-American families.
Anyone needing a disability accommodation to attend the unveiling should contact the City’s ADA Coordinator, Stephanie Cook, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-215-2034. For an English interpreter, contact Title VI Coordinator Tatia M. Harris at 865-215-2831.