Maya Angelou has made her transition. She leaves behind a long legacy of love. The International poet and author touched nations with words that washed over pages, encouraging people to step higher and with purpose. She shared lessons on learning through good and bad times. Angelou charged readers with the task of finding the beauty in everything. Even the ugly stuff allows individuals the chance to grow inside so that the work to heal oneself and the world can take place.
Civil Rights were her mantra. She spoke out about injustice with her voice and pen and she did it her way. As a young woman Dr. Angelou set out to live her adult life with as much passion as possible. She had a small son in tow, who would benefit from a mother not afraid to take risks, and a family made up of community arts and activism.
Singing and dancing were Angelou’s go-to channels that would open her up to experiencing the world on her terms. She found like-minded people interested in community living, in the states and abroad (an adopted family who looked out for each other) with the belief that their intended actions could and and would make a positive difference. Dr. Angelou walked with her head high, teaching. She wasn’t just a talker she walked the walk. Her son Guy was raised around artist types that embodied the things Dr. Maya stood for. She gifted the world with truth, justice and ways to make the world safer for little brown and black girls who had not yet learned the power of their voice. At 86, Dr. Angelou leaves a blue print and long legacy for others to speak their truth.
Her interest in activism came from spending time in Jim Crow South and seeing the unjust ways in which black people were treated. Her grandmother didn’t believe in “woe is me” as a theory and the strength to keep pushing ahead until brighter days prevailed was ingrained in a young Maya. A place full of rules that did not make sense to the young girl was challenged. She did it through observations and words that stuck to the heart and brain daring those to take a chance to step out on faith.
The hard world of racism pushed Dr. Angelou into activism. Watching her uncle climb into a potato bin and hiding from Ku Klux Klan members looking for a black man to hang gave young Maya plenty to write about. She did not think it was right to treat a grown man like a child. Being raped as a young girl made her feel invisible. Her novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, still gives girls wrongly touched, permission to tell their truth amid the backdrop of shame. Silence, Dr. Angelou says, will slow the journey of discovering the Phenomenal Woman who lives inside. With Still I Rise Angelou shakes doubt at those who think they have gotten over by making others feel inferior. Use your voice, she says over and over. Penning books and poems that serve as a road-map towards self-sufficiency and self-love were ways she reached millions.
Dr. Angelou stood for excellence. It came from her grandmother and being raised on a farm in Stamps, Arkansas where the family store fed loggers. Life sustaining food in the form of home grown green vegetables and fruits, produced crops, which were sold to hungry men away from their families and in need of sustenance.
Dr. Angelou accrued many honorary degrees and as a poet laureate she has touched generations of young writers and those learning to use their words as healing salve. At 86, Dr. Angelou needed a rest. Ill health caused her to start slowing down. The final months of her life Dr. Angelou had to turn down speaking events due to increasingly failing health. However, she has done her part to ensure that those needing voice and agency have the tools (her examples of timeless writing), and permission to sign their own stories. Countless numbers of fans thank Maya Angelou, for her long legacy of love and honesty. Her words and writings, both treasures that will forever be remembered.
Opinion By: C. Imani Williams