Today’s arts news: Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, India.Arie and more pay tribute to Toni Morrison at Virginia Tech
New River Valley Bureau staff writer Tonia Moxley brings us this account of last night’s tribute to novelist and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison at Virginia Tech’s Burruss Hall. If you went, what did you think? Tell us in the comments.
Virginia Tech pays tribute to author Toni Morrison
The event included big names such as Maya Angelou and India.Arie.
By Tonia Moxley
But the dozens of famous guests and the near-capacity Burruss Hall audience was Virginia Tech saying loud and clear something like: “We may be known for engineering and Hokie football, but now we are the $94 million Center for the Arts.”
“We hope to become a home to the arts,” tribute organizer and Tech poetry professor Nikki Giovanni told a gathering earlier in the day with Morrison and co-honoree Maya Angelou, beloved author, poet and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
No matter if that home is still under construction. No matter that it’s slated to open almost exactly a year from now. “We have reached out to the arts, and the arts have said yes,” Giovanni told the gathering.In fact, dozens of poets, performers and scholars — among them activist Angela Davis, former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove and singer-songwriter India.Arie — said yes.
They said yes to cheering up a friend, a mentor, an inspiration. Giovanni has said that she and Angelou decided to do something nice for Morrison, whose 45-year-old son, Slade, died close to Christmas in 2010.
Out of that impulse grew a massive effort. Arie told Morrison that serenading her Tuesday was the fulfillment of a wish she made when she was 19 years old and a college student who had just read “The Bluest Eye,” Morrison’s first novel.
Then the Grammy-winning artist sang a song called “Not Afraid of the Dark” that she said was inspired by Morrison’s novel.
Even first lady Michelle Obama sent a letter read at the event to thank Morrison for her inspiring life and work.
And others came, from Kansas, Maryland, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
Amelia Thorpe came with her book group, the Literate Ladies of Durham, N.C.
“The first time I read ‘The Bluest Eye,’ that really spoke to me, and I still feel it,” Thorpe said.