It’s black history month in the States and before this short month of February slips away, I would like to pay homage to those who paved the way. During the Academy Awards on Sunday night, Merle Streep did the portion honoring those stars that we lost in the past year.
The list was quite extensive but the ones who stuck out in my mind were Mickey Rooney (I grew up watching his movies); Lauren Bacall (I think she epitomized women’s liberation with her raspy voice, strong stance and her wearing of pants) and then there was Maya Angelou. She is the focal point, here.
I paused when I remembered that she passed last year. What can be said of this woman and writer of over 20 books? There is so much. As an avid reader, I journeyed through her life with her when I first read, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was riveting as she shared her story of sexual child abuse and its devastating effects on her life.
I remembered reading a short piece on Mrs. Flowers. I didn’t know that she had actually written a book with the same title until today. However, after her experience, young Maya became mute and did not speak until Mrs. Flowers, a highly respected and educated woman in the community, coaxed her to read. The way she described this woman’s clothes, make-up and the scent of her talcum powder reminded me of how children study every detail about us.
She told young Maya, “Your grandmother says you read a lot. Every chance you get. That’s good, but not good enough. Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning.” She was able to get Maya to speak and thus her healing began. This one act of love helped her regain her courage and it put her on the path to becoming a great and powerful storyteller who showered us with the beauty of her words.
I read many of her books as they came out. She shared parts of her life as she traveled around the globe and married men from different backgrounds and cultures. She painted very vivid pictures in my mind as I kept up as her books came off the presses. Her biographical books along with her poems kept me entertained as I followed her rich and illustrious life.
Here are a few of her books that I had until they were tattered and torn. Just Give Me A Cool Drink…Diee; Gather Together in My Name; Singin’ Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas; All of God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes; Heart of a Woman; I Shall Not be Moved; On the Pulse of the Morning and the last book I read by her was, Letter to My Daughter.
I have quoted the poems, ’Phenomenal Woman’ and ‘Still I Rise’, throughout the years. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing and hearing her at a gathering in 2003! Thank goodness!
To Dr. Maya Angelou, I want to say thank you and kudos to you! You exemplify the talent that only a loving writer can give to the world and I only hope that I can touch the baton that you laid down and leave a few footprints in the sand as well.
Lynn February 23, 2015