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.

More articles by:

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.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
Richard Hardigan
The Media is Misleading the Public on the Al-Asqa Mosque Situation
Matthew Stevenson
Travels in Trump’s America: Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville
Ruth Fowler
Fire at Grenfell
Ezra Kronfeld
The Rights of Sex Workers: Where is the Movement to Legalize Prostitution
Mark Weisbrot
What Venezuela Needs: Negotiation Not Regime Change
Binoy Kampmark
From Spicy to the Mooch: A Farewell to Sean Spicer
Wim Laven
Progress Report, Donald Trump: Failing
Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail