What is the meaning of the poem "Dreams," by Nikki Giovanni?

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jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nikki Giovanni, born in 1943, is an African-American poet who first gained prominence during the 1960's, a decade in which African-Americans struggled to gain civil rights and also explored their own cultural identity.

In her poem titled "Dreams," Giovanni begins by describing her youthful dreams.

She wanted to be a "raelet."  The Raelets were a group of female singers who backed up the great African-American vocalist and keyboard artist, Ray Charles.  More specifically, she wanted to be Marjorie Hendricks, a key member of the Raelets.

Later, her dreams change:

then as i grew and matured
i became more sensible   
and decided i would   
settle down
and just become
a sweet inspiration
The "sweet inspiration" could refer to Giovanni's activities in the Civil Rights movement, in which she inspired people to stand up for their rights.  It could also refer to her poetry, and to her work as a professor at several universities in which she inspired young artists.