Filmmaker Bobby Shepard and Poet Nikki Giovanni to Visit Chico
Award-winning filmmaker Robert “Bobby” Shepard and
Nikki Giovanni—poet, professor, and commentator—will
visit California State University, Chico during February for Black
History Month. Shepard will be on campus showing his films and lecturing
on Tuesday evening, Feb. 15 and Wednesday, Feb. 16. Giovanni will
speak on Feb. 18 at 7 pm in Harlen Adams Theatre.
Filmmaker Bobby Shepard
Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 pm in Ayres 106, Shepard will host the
University Film Series: When the Spirits Dance Mambo (Robert
Shepard: producer and director of photography, Cuba, 2002) and The
Murder of Emmett Till (Robert Shepard: director of photography,
U.S.A., 2003). On Wednesday, Feb. 16, he will speak at the Conversation
on Diversity series at noon in the Bell Memorial Union on “Filming
Across the Racial Divide.”
Shepard will receive the key to the City of Chico from Mayor Scott
Gruendl on Wednesday, Feb. 16, at a celebration at the CARD Center,
7–9 pm. The celebration of Black History Month—with
music, drumming, and African dance troupes—is open to the
Shepard is an award-winning director of photography with more
than 200 production credits in documentary, dramatic, commercial,
and sports cinematography since 1975. His awards include IMPACT
Repertory Theatre’s Dreamkeeper award (2003); International
Black Panther Film Festival for Courage, Vision, and Commitment
(2000); abd tge National Black Programming Consortium’s Oscar
Micheaux Award for his “passion, perseverance, vision, and
pioneering spirit” (1997). His numerous projects over the
years include work on Brother Outside: The Life of Bayard Rustin;
Ralph Ellison: An American Journey; Roots; Facing the Truth with
Bill Moyers; Licensed to Kill; Black Is … Black Ain’t;
and Eyes on the Prize I and II.
Shepard earned his BA from the Leonard Davis Center for the Performing
Arts at the City College of New York and was a graduate fellow at
the New York Institute of Technology. He served as a Marine sergeant
in Vietnam in the 1960s. He is a childhood friend of Chico photographer
Rudy Giscombe, who was instrumental in bringing Shepard to Chico.
Shepard is being hosted by the A.S. Committee on Arts and Lec-tures,
Graduate, International, and Sponsored Programs, Humanities and
Fine Arts, and Communication Design.
Poet and Professor Nikki Giovanni
is the author of more than two dozen books. She was a finalist for
a 2003 Grammy for The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection,
a spoken-word CD. Her most recent books, Love Poems, Blues:
For All the Changes, and Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea,
were winners of the NAACP Image Award in 1998, 2000, and 2003, respectively.
She is also well known for her book Cotton Candy on a Rainy
Day. One of the most widely read American poets, Giovanni describes
herself as “a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor
She has been a professor at Virginia Tech since 1987 and was named
University Distinguished Professor in 1999. Giovanni has been honored
across the country for her work, including the Langston Hughes Medal
for Outstanding Poetry and the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award.
She has been awarded more than 20 honorary degrees, and was presented
a U.S. Senate Certificate of Commendation by California Senator
Giovanni is the guest of Profes-sor Tracy Butts of Chico’s
English department. Butts, a former student of Giovanni’s
at Virginia Tech, says “Nikki’s voice has long echoed
in this country. Her work reflects issues across the spectrum—love,
families, race, and a whole host of social issues.” Giovanni
had an influential role in Butts’s life as teacher and mentor.
Butts believes that Giovanni provides a common thread among generations
through her books and CDs.
Sponsors of Giovanni’s visit include the President’s
Office, the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost’s
Office, the Office of Student Affairs, the Committee on Arts and
Lectures, the Associated Students, the California Faculty Association,
and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. The reading is free
and open to the public.
She Changed My Life!
Commentary by Tracy Butts, English
As a child in Virginia, I grew up reading the poetry of Nikki
Giovanni. When I began school at Virginia Tech, I ran, not walked,
over to the registration terminal and stood in line for hours to
sign up for her classes, only to discover that they were full, which
is always the case.
On the first day of classes, I showed up to each of her classes
with my add slips, and she graciously added me, as well as a number
of other students. Not to sound overly dramatic, but that semester,
in those filled-to-capacity classrooms, changed my life forever.
I was in awe. Nikki Giovanni is an icon. Hers is a household name.
I mean, my uncle, like countless other blacks, had in his music
collection Truth is on the Way (1971), Giovanni’s
award-winning album in which she reads a number of her earlier poems
to gospel music, and he had seen her read live and on television
I had read about the rock concert-/black church-like atmospheres
at the readings she gave to standing-room-only audiences, where
people in the audience would recite word for word her poetry along
with her, calling and responding to her as she read. I had heard
about the people who traveled for miles just to hear her read, to
be in the same room with her.
I have since had the chance to experience, an intentional word
choice here, a number of Giovanni’s readings. And believe
me, what I had read and heard was not hype—it’s the
gospel truth. If you have had the chance to hear Giovanni read live,
then you know what I mean when I say it is an experience. If you
have not, then you owe it to yourself to find out what I mean and
to experience Nikki Giovanni firsthand.
—Tracy Butts, Department of English