Reflections on Poverty with "Nikki-Rosa" Poem

Nikki Giovanni's poem, "Nikki-Rosa," with accompanying Def Jam video and ReadWriteThink lesson will help students develop their understanding of poverty, explore their childhood experiences, and write about these reflections in a poem.


The importance of the poem

In conversations of about poverty, the emphasis is often placed on what people lack, and ignores the possibility of wealth in other ways. A young girl and her family may not have much money, but they may be rich in community and love for one another.

Poet Nikki Giovanni raises this point in “Nikki-Rosa.” She describes her experience of growing up in an impoverished, black household and highlights that peopleoften white peopletend to misinterpret and make assumptions about what poverty meant to her.

Examine your own assumptions about poverty

Our collection of "Nikki-Rosa" resources offers your students a deeper and more personal understanding of poverty, and how they might perceive people they don’t know or who are different from them.

Through Giovanni’s poem, your students will examine their assumptions about poverty, look twice at the areas in their life where they think or are told they’re lacking, and find areas of wealth they perhaps hadn’t seen before. Giovanni’s personal telling of her story will also encourage your students to connect her experience to theirs through poetry. They may even feel so inspired to write a poem of their own, using “Nikki-Rosa” as a model.


Below are four resources for middle school through university students, using the poem “Nikki-Rosa”:

The Poem

"Nikki-Rosa" originally appeared in Nikki Giovanni's collection of poetry, Black Judgment (1968). Here it is as featured in the "Poems and Poets" section of the Poetry Foundation website.

EXPLORE :: Nikki-Rosa

Nikki Giovanni Reads “Nikki-Rosa” on Def Jam Poetry

This video gives you and your students the opportunity to watch Nikki Giovanni as she reads her poem aloud. How does your students’ reading of the poem compare to the author’s reading? Consider a conversation about the art of writing and presenting poetry.

EXPLORE :: Nikki Giovanni reads "Nikki-Rosa"

Lesson Plan: Childhood Remembrances


good hair zine, Flickr

Adapted from Carol Jago's Nikki Giovanni in the Classroom, this lesson from ReadWriteThink invites your students to explore the place where life and art intersect. After reading and discussing Giovanni's poem, they'll explore their own childhood experiences, and then write about those memories using Giovanni's poem as a model.

EXPLORE :: Childhood Remembrances lesson plan

Discussion Questions

The Center for Civic Reflection has created a set of thought-provoking discussion questions—some purposely uncomfortable—that will get your students talking about race, our natural impulse to assume, and how our childhood memories shape who we are.

EXPLORE :: Discussion Questions

Nikki100Nikki Giovanni is a writer, educator, and activist. She gained initial fame in the late 1960s as one of the Black Art Movement's foremost authors. More recently, she was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album and was commissioned to create an inaugural poem for President Barack Obama.