“I Am a Citizen”: Watch Nikki Giovanni Read Her Poem “Vote” on the Power of the Ballot

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end the show with the acclaimed poet and activist Nikki Giovanni. She’s out with a new collection of poems called Make Me Rain. In her poem “Vote,” Giovanni offers her thoughts on the importance of voting. This was filmed by The Meteor, a feminist collective of activists, journalists and creators, for a daily Instagram series focusing on voting rights.

NIKKI GIOVANNI: It’s not a hug
Nor mistletoe at Christmas

It’s not a colored egg
At Easter
Nor a bunny hopping
Across the meadow

It’s a vote

Saying you are
A citizen

Though it sometimes
Is chocolate
Or sometimes vanilla
It can be female
Or male
It is right
Or left
I can agree
Or disagree but
And this is an important but
I am a citizen

I should be able
To vote from prison
I should be able
To vote from the battlefield
I should be able
To vote when I get a driver’s license
I should be able
To vote when I can purchase a gun
I must be able
To vote
If I’m in the hospital
If I’m in the old folks’ home
If I’m needing a ride
To the Polling Place

I am a citizen

I must be able to vote

Folks were lynched
Folks were shot
Folks’ communities were gerrymandered
Folks who believed
In the Constitution were lied to
Burned out
Bought and sold
Because they agreed
All Men and Women Were Created Equal

Folks vote to make us free

It’s not cookies
Nor cake
But it is the icing
That is so sweet

Good for the Folks
Good for Us
My country ’tis of thee.

AMY GOODMAN: Acclaimed poet and activist and professor Nikki Giovanni reading her poem “Vote,” which is in her new collection, Make Me Rain. Special thanks to The Meteor, a feminist collective of activists.

And a reminder: Democracy Now! will air a three-hour election night special tonight from 9 p.m. to midnight. I’ll be co-hosting with Juan González and Nermeen Shaikh. You can watch it live at our website, democracynow.org. We’ll be covering the results from the presidential election to congressional and state races, as well as ballot initiatives across the country. Democracy Now!‘s election night special will feature interviews and perspectives that you won’t hear anywhere else, including the voices of activists, analysts, grassroots leaders discussing how the movements on the ground will go forward following this historic election, starting at 9 p.m. through midnight Eastern time. And you can check your local station.

I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Special thanks to Julie Crosby.

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