Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Poet At Center Of Firestorm

Further developments on the Nikki Giovanni/Ken Blackwell story.

In an article in The Cincinatti Inquirer, poet Nikki Giovanni is quoted as follows with regard to her Saturday poetry reading in Fountain Square:

Giovanni isn't happy about the criticism or controversy. But she's not apologizing, either.

"All I have is my voice," she said. "I don't want it silenced. We were on (Fountain Square) where the Klan gathered to speak. I'm not sure as many people called to complain about what the Klan had to say as what I said."

Giovanni said Fountain Square has a long history as a place where controversial and sometimes unpopular issues are voiced.

"There's never an appropriate place," she said. "The square is a place for free speech and public dialogue."

Giovanni added, "I think Kenny is not a nice person. I think you can tell that by what I wrote."

Miss Giovanni's remarks are balanced by the following:

Keith Fangman, vice president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, was unhappy about a line in the poem that referred to police shootings of young black men. He called the reference "inflammatory."

"What a great way to welcome the cop-hating, racist element back to Fountain Square," he said sarcastically.

Fangman said 3CDC leadership was to blame for the "PR nightmare" created by Giovanni's remarks. "Any imbecile should have known that Nikki Giovanni is an ill-tempered, foul-mouthed, left-wing, political militant and should never have been invited to speak at this celebration."

If that's not an imflamitory, militantly Right-wing, not to say vicious remark, this blogger doesn't know what is.

Moreover, I find it highly inappropriate for a police officer to make such nakedly partazan remarks in a newspaper, especially when he is specifically identified as Vice President of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police. Frankly, a poet *is* free to express her private views in any place and in any way she sees fit. A police officer is not. If Mr. Fangman had been speaking as a private citizen, he, too, would have been free to be as partizan as he wished. However, for him to speak as he did in his capacity as an officer of the law is distasteful and shows poor judgment on his part, to say the very least.

We wholeheartedly support Miss Giovanni's courage and artistic integrity, as well as her inalienable right to free speech.

Thanks to Renee*in*Ohio at Howard Empowered People for highlighting this controversy.