Maya Angelou is gone from here and on the pulse of this morning, we sing our praise for her. Sad, slow and sure is the melody of our hearts, broken over the loss but grateful for the living. She is worthy of such display—this unbridled emotion we lay like rose petals at her feet. Across a lifetime rich with joy, passion and spirit, she sang our song. It is only fitting that we pay homage. That we shout her name.
Hers was a voice for the ages: clear-eyed and unyielding. There was power in every one of this award-winning poet/author/screenwri- ter/director/lecturer’s words—muscle and grit, grace and wisdom, courage, resilience, beauty and, above all else, love. Each of these things was spread across memoirs, poems and essays, griot-styled storytelling and moving images, all of them dripping with truth.
We sopped up Mother Maya’s letters—“Phenomenal Woman” and “Still I Rise” (poems); I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Heart of a Woman and Mom & Me & Mom (memoirs); Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (collected essays) and many more—grateful that she used her work to alternately preach and school and wrap us in her warm embrace. Race, sex, family, womanhood, community, honoring the past, being present—all of these subjects she used to examine who we are as African-Americans and human beings. Her words healed wounds. At least for a spell. “The voice she found,” President Obama said upon her passing on May 28, 2014, “helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves.”
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