Today, we begin another year of celebrating our lives together, sharing our thoughts and feelings, our joys and sorrows. I have chosen this morning to celebrate the life and words of an inspiring Afro-American poet, Maya Angelou. I’ll start with a thumbnail portrait.
She was born in 1928 as Marguerite Johnson. When her parents’ marriage failed, three-year old Maya was shipped off with her four-year old brother Bailey to her paternal grandmother Mrs. Henderson in Stamps, Arkansas. After about four years, the two kids are re-united with their mother in St. Louis, Missouri.
But after living through violent events there which rendered her mute, she and her brother are sent back to Stamps. After about five years there, being black in the South catches up with her near teenage brother Bailey. Grandmother Henderson takes the kids to their mother in California where Maya furthers her education, both in a racially integrated secondary school and in the school of life. And at 16, she has a baby boy.
There ends her famous first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but she will go on to be an actress, a writer, a teacher, a civil rights militant and a celebrated poet, winner of many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom received from the hands of Barack Obama in 2010. She died in 2014, at the age of 86. (Listen to the poem, Caged Bird, or read the text.)
I thank Maya Angelou for the humanity and creativity that allowed her to share, with people of all colors, ages, origins and genders, her story of a young Black girl growing up under the pressures of ”masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black lack of power.” [267-268]
So you can discover for yourself Maya Angelou’s spirit and intelligence, I have written this blog post with the following links to a few of her interviews, including two done with Mavis Nicholson of British TV in the 1985 and 1987 and one with George Stroumboulopoulos of CBC shortly before she died in 2014, as well Maya reciting the poem, Still I Rise, (or read the text).
It is a wonderful thing to hear her speaking unabashedly about her life and times.
Christopher Thomson – 2019-09-08