This post pays tribute to the the very inspirational Maya Angelou, who died this week. Maya was a poet, writer, storyteller, essayist, activist, singer, dancer, actress, composer. Maya was Hollywood's first female black director and as a civil rights activist she worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
In 1993 President Bill Clinton invited Maya to write and read the first inaugural poem. Americans all across the country watched as she read "On the Pulse of Morning," which begins "A Rock, a River, a Tree" and calls for peace, racial and religious harmony, and social justice for people of different origins, incomes, genders, and sexual orientations. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama. Angelou was awarded over 50 honorary degrees.
Angelou’s most famous work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), deals with her early years in Arkansas, where she lived with her brother and paternal grandmother. In one of its most evocative (and controversial) moments, Angelou describes how she was first cuddled then raped by her mother's boyfriend when she was just seven years old. When the man was murdered by her uncles for his crime, Angelou felt responsible, and stopped talking. Angelou remained mute for five years, but developed a love for language.
One of the things I do to take care of myself when I am feeling depleted or beaten or defeated or harassed is to listen to her recite: And Still I Rise (see YouTube below). If you don't know her work I would encourage you to go to her website: mayaangelou.com
I would like to acknowledge that some of this information has come from poetry foundation.org and I would like to dedicate this post to my beautiful friend Simon.