FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Legacy of Maya Angelou

by

Only last week, I was listening to “Gather Together in My Name”, an audio book. So I was reminded of Maya Angelou’s power with words, her extraordinary life too. If there’s a more poignant and commanding example of message embedded in ‘voice’, I cannot imagine. In every line, in every pithy phrase, in every interview, she utters poetry.

We are enriched by the treasure chest of audio recordings Angelou leaves us. Look for them. Listen to her voice. Especially hear “On the Pulse of Morning

I wonder if Arabs and other Muslims heard her words in that ode recited at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. In itself it’s a powerful invocation, so perfect for the horizon we peer onto when a leader takes office. Her ode is not for a man but for a nation, for every nation, for every one of her citizens. Angelou speaks to the horizon of every morning:–for each of us, whatever our status, whatever our condition. (I have this poem posted on the wall of my bedroom.)

Angelou in her 2008 interview with Armstrong Williams    remarks: the challenge is “to defy gravity, to stand erect and remain erect, and be absolutely present… so that everything I know I have, is in this chair, with me now.” This Buddhist idea surely explains her clarity and the force of her person.

I met Maya Angelou. Yes. At the YariYari conference in New York. 1997. It was a crowded celebration of African and African-American women writers. With a small group seated around this lady—she was Yari’s honored guest– I dared: “What do we need”, I selfishly asked, “to confront, thwart and overcome racist attacks on our people?” (At that time, I was preoccupied with Arab civil rights work in this country.) Angelou’s reply was abrupt. “Shout, cry out for help. The predator senses weakness and he goes directly to it, taking it in his jaws. But, when he confronts boldness and solidarity”, she said assuredly, “then he slithers away.

“So cry out”, she admonished. “Scream, loudly.”  Then she turned from me. I felt intimidated. I wanted to talk about this; but Angelou must have gauged this was enough advice. She had many young people pressing her. I’ve never forgotten those words, and tone of rebuke she used.

I read her best known book, “I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings”, early on; still, well after college.

I had another experience of this woman’s importance to Black writers in particular. Angelou’s writing career had been nourished as a member of the Harlem Writers Guild; it is said she owed much to the guild and to its leader John O. Killins. When Killins later headed the Writing Circle at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn in the 1980s, he invited me to join. That experience with him and his cluster of emerging writers made an enormous difference to my growth:—more to my finding my voice as an activist than as a writer. Transforming.

Then, when I heard Angelou read ‘On the Pulse of the Morning’, my esteem for her as a unique voice for Americans took a leap. I’ve heard that some editions of that poem exclude her references to Muslims, Arabs, and sheiks among those whose horizons she speaks to. So be sure to look for the original. You will see what I mean.

Barbara Nimri Aziz is an anthropologist and journalist. She has visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories on numerous occasions, reporting for Pacifica-WBAI in New York and elsewhere. Her website is www.RadioTahrir.org.

Barbara Nimri Aziz is a New York based anthropologist and journalist. Find her work at www.RadioTahrir.org. She was a longtime producer at Pacifica-WBAI Radio in NY.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail