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celebration event

Speaking to the Moment: Reconciling the Dream

professionally shot portrait of Nikki Giovanni wearing a blue shirt, red scarf and smiling

Nikki Giovanni
Poet, Educator, & Best Selling Author
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration
Wednesday, February 10th, 2021
5 p.m., Virtual Event via Run the World Platform

Register now

Nikki Giovanni is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. Over the past 30 years, the outspoken nature of her writing and speaking has brought the eyes of the world upon her. One of the most widely read American poets, she prides herself on being "a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English." The Academy of American Poets voted Giovanni #1 poet for the spring of 2007.
Giovanni remains as determined and committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality. Always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the black community. Her focus is on the individual—specifically, the power one has to make a difference in oneself and in the lives of others.
Giovanni has written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books, and three collections of essays. Her book Racism 101 includes bold, controversial essays about the situation of Americans on all sides of various race issues. She has received 21 honorary doctorates and a host of other awards, including Woman of the Year titles from three different magazines and the Governors’ Awards in the Arts from both Tennessee and Virginia. Rosa, her biography of legendary civil rights activist Rosa Parks, won Caldecott Honors and the Coretta Scott King Medal for best illustrated book. Other books include the collection of adult poetry Acolytes and the novel On My Journey Now: Looking at African American History Through the Spirituals. Three of her volumes of poetry—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. Her newly released collection, Bicycles: Love Poems, has been called one of her “most powerful offerings to date” by Essence magazine.
Since 1987, Nikki Giovanni has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a distinguished professor. As a devoted and passionate writer, teacher, and speaker, she inspires not only her students but also readers and audiences nationwide. Her album Truth Is on Its Way, in which she reads her poetry against a background of gospel music, was a top 100 album and was named Best Spoken Word Album by the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, a spoken-word CD, was a finalist for the 2003 Grammy Award in the category of spoken word.

2021 MLK Student Hosts

Anthony posing for a generic head shot photo

Anthony Shepard

Anthony Shepard is a St. Louis native and a BFA Musical Theatre major here at Southeast. You can usually find him on/or around a stage. Anthony is President of Alpha Psi Omega, a founding member of the HCAM Equity and Diversity Committee, and a member of Black Mask. 


Raven posing for a generic head shot photo

Raven Cole

Raven Cole is a Senior at Southeast Missouri University (SEMO) majoring in Criminal Justice and double minoring in Spanish & Political Science. Since her time here at SEMO Raven has become President of the Lambda Eta chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho, President of the NPHC, a McNair Scholar, a member of Black Student Union, a 2020 Federal Justice Fellow and a executive member of the Student Activities Council. She enjoys volunteering with the Lupus Foundation. Volunteering with the Lupus foundation is dear to Raven’s heart because her mother is a Lupus Warrior. Raven is an aspiring Defense Attorney. She will graduate this May and will be attending Law School.


Performing Artist

Jonathan posing for a generic head shot photoDr. Jonthan C. Bibbs 

Richmond, Virginia based multi-talented Dr. Jonathan C. Bibbs is this year's 2021 MLK showcase performer.  Bibbs ia a consummate singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, family man, and community leader. Reared by educated, religiously devout parents who loved him enough to adopt him and pray for his talent right from the start, Bibbs experienced early grace. He was led to the esteemed door of music teacher Susan Trotter at Virginia Commonwealth University who took a curiously patient three-year old Bibbs under her tutelage, training the prodigy under the Suzuki method before he’d fully even learned how to write his own name. Bibbs was a disciplined pupil who practiced his Gladwell hours from VCU and Sixth Baptist Church right to the major stages of Richmond, sharing the spotlight with everyone from the Richmond Philharmonic to gospel superstars like The Winans before he’d even entered high school. He attended the Historically Black institution, Hampton University, on a trombone scholarship. There the Hampton Man was further refined into the focused and dignified man of Southern gentility, measured strength, and quiet masculinity that displayed itself not through bravado and untilled hope, but through its talent, intellect, and works. Bibbs first album, True Story in 2001, was not even for himself, but for the engineering studies of a producer friend. He released five well-received projects  over the last fourteen years, including Red in 2003, the critically acclaimed breakthrough album that is the internationally beloved Unbreakable in 2005, the adventurous and deeply personal heartbreak of the iTunes and Amazon charting Ode to Old Flames in 2012 (peak: #11 & #14 R&B, respectively), the traditionalism of American Songbook standards through the minimalist Jazz Variations Live from New York in 2013. He was the SoulTracks Male Vocalist of the Year nominee in 2012.  Bibbs has done everything from S.O.B.s in NYC to the Howard Theater in DC. Charts? Bibbs' 2012 Ode to Old Flames peaked at #11 on iTunes R&B charts, and #14 on Amazon's Rhythm and Blues rankings for more than a month. Bibb's abilities make him a quadruple threat: writer, producer, composer, and multi-instrumental musician who has innovative songs bridging country and soul like his love letter to and old love, Nobody Loves You More or a long proven ability to marry jazz and soul as with his new collaboration with Dwele and LaDarrel "Saxappeal" Johnson on Love In Waiting which Bibbs released in 2019. Bibbs is as accomplished an artist, as he is enviable a talent.

Bibbs is a well-respected educator and senior administrator. Just a few years after college, Bibbs was committed to take over for his mother and Richmond Prep founding principal, Dr. Mary Gordon West. In the years since, the determined change agent and his team has doubled both the enrollment and the physical space of the 37-year-old, Christian-based elementary academy, located on Virginia’s prestigious Monument Avenue. With a curriculum rich in ethnic pride, arts and culture, Christian principles, and academic rigor, Bibbs and his team are looking to step into that gap to substantively contribute to the restoration of the Black family, Black Arts, and the Black community in Richmond, VA as a whole. In doing so, Dr. Bibbs is situated in a long tradition of the artist as advocate, educator, and voice for the marginalized in the storied legacies of such human rights leaders as Harry Belafonte, Fela Kuti, Stevie Wonder, and Nina Simone.  

Performing Musicians

Musical Director:

joseph posing and laughing for a portrait shot holding his instrument

Dr. Joseph L. Jefferson

Dr. Joseph L. Jefferson is the Asst. Professor of Trombone/Euphonium and Director of Jazz Studies at Southeast Missouri State University. As a soloist, chamber musician, educator, and adjudicator, Joseph maintains an active schedule in Classical, Jazz, and commercial musical settings. Dr. Jefferson has been a guest artist and presenter at the International Trombone Festival, International Horn Symposium, University of Nevada, Reno, Texas A & M - Kingsville Trombone Day, University of Evansville Brass & Percussion Day, Mt. Hood Community College, Mineral Area College, and Three Rivers College. As a performer, Dr. Jefferson has shared the stage with a variety of groups and artists such as The Colour of Music Orchestra, The Irish Tenors, The Cab Calloway Orchestra, Zoltan Kiss (Mnozil Brass), Sean Jones, Randy Brecker, and international R&B artists Dwele and Raheem Devaughn among others. Internationally, Dr. Jefferson has had performing and teaching residencies in Bermuda and Asia at the College of Music, Mahidol University in Thailand.

National Anthem Singer:

Peighton Robinson

Southeast Jazz Collective

Dr. Joseph L. Jefferson

Michael Goldsmith

Jay Contrino

Michael Jones

Ethan Brown

Kyle Clay

Guest Artist Singer:

Dr. Jonathan Bibbs

Register now

Ticket Information

This year's event is free of charge

For more information please contact Tatianna Hanna at (573) 651-2626 or


Academic Hall Room 010-011
MLK Celebration
One University Plaza, MS 3375
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701