On Wednesday, May 28th, the world learned that we have yet again lost another pioneer. Maya Angelou was called home to glory at the ripe age of 86 years old. She passed peacefully in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. What a blessing for such a beautiful spirit… With that being said, is it fair to say that Maya Angelou’s passing is devastating? She leaves behind such a huge Literary and Civil Rights legacy that it leaves a lot of us scratching our heads and silently wondering, ” My God, who is going to carry on this heavy torch that she used to balance so effortlessly? Maya Angelou left some mighty shoes to fill.
I think that most in my generation really got to understand the brilliance of this literary warrior after we learned that it was her poetry that Janet Jackson was reciting in John Singleton’s Poetic Justice. It was then that I began to learn about many of the literary greats that have blessed us with their gifts. Through learning about Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neal Hurston, to name a few, I received confirmation that I too had a voice. I found my sound there in the mist of me educating myself. It is because of people like Maya Angelou that I am convinced that I am not crazy. Like them, I write out my pain. The matriarch of the family, my grandmother, told me that the poetry that I wrote was beautiful. She began to compare my writings to Maya Angelou. At the time, that comparison angered me. I refused to be a writer, even if it was in my blood. I know better now.
Maya Angelou is more that just a black girl born Marguerite Johnson from St. Louis, Missouri. She is more than the broken little girl in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She is every bit of what a woman is supposed to be: Love. It was a wisdom wrapped around that love that made her command your respect before she would open her mouth. Maya Angelou was POWER personified.
It’s funny because when we think of Maya Angelou, we automatically think “writer”. However, this woman possessed layers and layers of creativity. In her earlier years, she was both a singer and dancer. She finally decided to do something with her writings seriously in 1959. That decision required to her to make a big move to New York. This move was a small step to the giant. Before she decided to pursue writing, she was world traveled and education. She was also a performer inspiring audiences all over the world. She married, divorced and became a mother before she wrote her first book. When she made it to New York, she really began to thrive and blossom in Harlem.
She has walked with world leaders. She has also befriended both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. In addition to penning countless books and poems, she has also taken her hand at film outside of acting. She has written screen plays and directed movies. Her story serves as strength and goes to show that a black woman can literally do anything in this world. In 1981, she became a professor of American Studies at North Carolina’s Wake Forest University.
Maya Angelou will finally be laid to rest on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Her services will be held at Wait Chapel, located on Wake Forest University campus. It is said that Oprah Winfrey along with several other world leaders will all be gathering together in Winston-Salem North Carolina all to say goodbye to the cage bird. May her legacy live on freely.