Knoxville native Nikki Giovanni was the featured speaker at the Dogwood Arts Festival downtown Saturday afternoon. She packed Union Avenue Books twice and drew a large crowd on Market Square, as kids were making sidewalk-chalk masterpieces and passersby were playing all manner of random tunes on piano. Once a radical poet associated with the Black Power movement, now a prominent faculty member at Virginia Tech, Giovanni visits Knoxville occasionally for a never-predictable appearance. She gave a reading of her poignant memories of pre-urban-renewal Mulvaney Street (now Hall of Fame Drive) where her grandmother lived, and a free-form lecture that was part performance-art comedy, offering her alternative history of Western Civilization and her theory that its progress was largely ordered by black women.
When asked if she realized Knoxville’s first black mayor was in the audience, she responded she did know Daniel Brown personally. She used to date his older brother.