Giovanni Documentary in Progress

Virginia Tech’s own Nikki Giovanni will be in the spotlight once again as the Rada Film Group follows the poet in their quest to create a cinema verite-style production, Going to Mars. Named after her well-known poem “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea (We’re Going To Mars),” the film will follow Giovanni in her daily life of writing, teaching, reading performances, and more.

More than just your typical “day in the life of,” however, Going to Mars will attempt to capture Giovanni’s larger-than-life spirit beyond her award-winning writing and activism, featuring her work as a professor, mentor, mother, and beyond.

Dr. Joe Brewster, his partner Michele Stephenson, and the Rada Film team have been working on the nontraditional project for over a year, making several trips to film in Blacksburg since October of 2016.

“The Rada Film group is a vehicle,” Brewster said. “It’s a vehicle through which we want to express ourselves.”

“And it’s been a mission to really provoke thought,” Stephenson added. “And be able to use storytelling to affect change in a way where we’re all seen in more complicated ways.”

Dr. Virginia Fowler, who was responsible for bringing Giovanni to Virginia Tech’s English Department, has been assisting in the research and resource gathering and will receive assistant producer credit on the film.

While a release date for the documentary is not yet set, the project has been received favorably at Sundance and continues as a deliberate, slow-going process.

“There’s been lots and lots of hours of shooting,” Fowler said. “We’ll be excited to see how it’s all coming together.”


Abbey Williams is a second-year M.A. student at Virginia Tech. She teaches first-year writing and is finishing up her capstone on the intersections of feminism and linguistics. She likes Toni Morrison, hard liquor, and her three-legged cat, Champion.

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