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Southern California Review Archives

Nikki Giovanni, “And How Could I Live On (for Betty Shabazz)”

In celebration of Black History Month, Air/Light is excited to feature a series of works by Black writers from the archives of the Southern California Review, whose archives we’re in the process of digitizing.

Today we’re excited to share “And How Could I Live On (for Betty Shabazz)” by Nikki Giovanni. Giovanni is one of the most celebrated living poets in the United States. Giovanni began her poetry career as a fundamental part of the Black Arts Movement. Alongside writers such as Sonia Sanchez and Gwendolyn Brooks, Giovanni brought out the necessary feminist politics of revolutionary Black liberation. Giovanni’s writing brings together radical politics, intimate relationships, and family dynamics. As Air/Light editor David L. Ulin wrote of Chasing Utopia in the Los Angeles Times, Giovanni’s writing mixes poetry and prose to create a blend “of memories, reflections, even recipes… In its particularity, its informality, Chasing Utopia continually reminds us of what’s important: the connections we develop with those we love.”

In her merging of the personal and the political, in her investigations of the entanglements of race and gender, Giovanni presents crucial documents of intersectionality, a mode of politics that has only grown more critical in recent years.

“And How Could I Live On (for Betty Shabazz)” was published in The Southern California Anthology volume 15 in 1998. The editors were James Ragan and Laurel Ann Bogen.



Founded in 1971, The Southern California Anthology (later The Southern California Review) played a crucial role in the literary ecology of Southern California. Under the leadership of Ann Stanford and James Ragan, the SCR was for many years the literary journal of USC’s Masters of Professional Writing Program and was edited and managed by students, with assistance from faculty advisors. Air/Light editor David L. Ulin was faculty advisor during the journal’s final years. The journal published writing by nationally renowned writers including Nikki Giovanni, Susan Orlean, Dana Johnson, W.S. Merwin, Hubert Selby, Jr., Marge Piercy, Emily Rapp Black, and many, many others.

Though SCR ended in 2015, we see Air/Light as part of the tradition of bringing the perspective of Southern California to the national and world literary stage. We’re thrilled to be able to digitize and host the complete run of the Southern California Review as a publicly-accessible online archive. We’re still in the midst of this project, but we’ll continue to publish more archival finds as we move forward.

The Editors of Air/Light.

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