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Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Legendary author Dr. Maya Angelou has died. She was 86.

Here is a February 2013 Q & A with Dr. Angelou: “Maya Angelou discusses her faith, politics, courage ahead of LSU event next week” in The Times-Picayune. An excerpt:

Q: Would you say (spiritualism) is something that has inspired you over the years?

MA: Yes, and I’m happy to say, I’m pleased and delighted to say yes. It’s a wonderful thing to know that there is something to know there is something greater than I am, and that is God itself.

Q: So how has what has inspired you changed over the course of your career?

MA: Well, I believed that there was a God because I was told it by my grandmother and later by other adults. But when I found that I knew not only that there was God but that I was a child of God, when I understood that, when I comprehended that, more than that, when I internalized that, ingested that, I became courageous.

I dared to do anything that was a good thing. I dared to do things as distant from what seemed to be in my future. I became a translator in Serbo-Croat in Yugoslavia, and I conducted the Boston Pops. I taught at the Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv in Israel, and I worked as a journalist in Egypt with the only English news magazine in the Middle East. All of that, and I come from a little village in Arkansas, smaller than Picayune, (laughs) and I was a young black woman, trying to do all the good things.

When I was asked to do something good, I often say yes, I’ll try, yes, I’ll do my best. And part of that is believing, if God loves me, if God made everything from leaves to seals and oak trees, then what is it I can’t do?


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Gary Paul Gilbert

Charles P. Pierce today sees Maya Angelou in context:

Back when there were still bookstores, this used to drive me crazy: Why did I have to look for Albert Murray’s work, not under Sociology or Cultural Studies, but under African American Studies? Why was John Hope Franklin not cheek by jowl with Catton or the Durants? Why did I have to look for James Baldwin under the same heading, instead of under Literature or Classics, where they belonged? Why wasn’t Angelou on a shelf with Yeats or Keats? (These questions are rhetorical, folks. I know damned well why this was the case.) As someone who makes a living with words, this mystified and angered me. If you’re a heavyweight, you swing with the heavyweights. Maya Angelou was a heavyweight.

Hers was an authentic American voice, as much as are Whitman or Dickinson, Melville or Dylan, Poe or Twain or Baldwin or Wright. It at first was marginalized as an American voice because she was an American whom Americans wanted to marginalize. But she broke through. She made art out of her life, and she made her life into art. She touched every element of the freedom struggle, from the marches in the streets to the arguments in literary salons, to the demand of the African American voice simply to be heard. She insisted on telling her story in order to tell the rest of us something about ourselves. She insisted — nay demanded her place in the collective American narrative. She engaged in a lifelong project of reinvention, and she put that reinvention always to high and noble purpose, and that was what made her an authentic American voice after all. Her passing leaves a silence, but only a brief one. We will come back to Maya Angelou, again and again.

Murdoch Matthew, not Gary (Typepad wouldn’t let me sign in)


Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

(Editor’s note: thanks for the comment, but please sign your full name in the future.)

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