‘Old time friends’
Giovanni, Angelou and Morrison have all been friends for several decades; Giovanni and Angelou cannot even remember a time when they were not friends.
“Someone recently asked (Angelou) how she knows me and neither of us can remember when we didn’t know each other,” Giovanni said.
The three writers all lived in New York City several decades ago where they began to establish their relationships.
After reading “The Bluest Eye,” Giovanni took the initiative to call Random House Publishing, where Morrison was an editor at the time, to ask her out for lunch. The two writers had mutual friends that they connected over, and their friendship blossomed over the years.
“I have been out of New York almost 30 years,” Giovanni said. “Once you leave, you have to make a point of seeing people. With this program, I have gotten to see her a lot more.”
Giovanni commented that while the group has established strong friendships, they keep their work separate.
“I think writers have to be careful not to influence other writers,” Giovanni said. “The group of writers that is coming will have less book talk than others. (Toni) doesn’t need me to say what I do and don’t like; it would ruin friendships. It has been done, and this is not the time to discuss that.”
The combination of writers, poets and musicians at the event includes many big time names.
“When are students going to have an opportunity to be on stage with two Pulitzer Prize winners?” Giovanni said.
When selecting the special guests in attendance for the event, Giovanni, Morrison and Angelou all compiled lists of people they wanted to come. After completing these lists, a select few were contacted.
The events’ special guests include India Arie, Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer; Angela Davis, emerita professor at UC Santa Cruz; and Rita Dove, English professor at University of Virginia, among many others.
“The arts kids never get to see their idols,” Giovanni said. “It is just meaningful to be able to do that.”
‘An arts initiative’
While most people associate Tech with its architecture, engineering and business programs, this event is just part of an initiative for the university to promote its arts programs.
The new Center for the Arts, slated to open in late 2013, will include a 1,260-seat performance hall for music, theater, and dance performances. In addition, the building which is currently under construction will house visual art galleries and new digital media exhibits.
Giovanni would like to see the arts emerge to the same attention level of Tech athletics.
“I want people to think about Tech and the arts… I want them to say, ‘Who are they having next year?’ I want this event to start the conversation," she said. "People talk about Tech football, but I want that level of excitement for the arts.”
Giovanni feels that this type of excitement requires creativity and initiative, and she believes that this event is the starting point.
“I think Tech needs to really think outside the box. Now that we have this wonderful building coming up, it is not a question of filling it but being unique.”