Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
“Nikki-Rosa,” like many of Giovanni’s poems, is full of the poet’s personal experiences. This poem talks about growing up black and the pleasures and pains inherent in the process. The poem was perhaps prompted by the tendency of white biographers of black people to point out only what seems to be wrong in black families and in black communities. The tone is reflective and critical but not bitter, although Giovanni very matter-of-factly observes that
I really hope no white person ever has causeto write about mebecause they never understand.
Giovanni flatly rejects white interpretations of black life because they come from different frames of reference with different values and simply are incapable of truly assessing what it is to grow up as a black child in a black family in a black community. Giovanni concludes:
Black love is Black wealth and they’llprobably talk about my hard childhoodand never understand thatall the while I was quite happy.
Here Giovanni establishes her reverence for black folk culture. Furthermore, in addressing a number of realities for poor people, ranging from alcoholism and domestic violence to having no indoor toilets to bathing in galvanized tubs, Giovanni asserts that “it isn’t poverty that concerns you/ . . . but only that everybody is together.” The theme of the communal nature of black communities as something to be celebrated and preserved resounds in much of Giovanni’s work.