Maya Angelou & Barack

Earlier this morning, beloved poet, writer, historian, and scholar-activist Dr. Maya Angelou passed away at her home in North Carolina. She was 86 years old.

Few of us will ever get to experience all that Dr. Angelou lived through in her lifetime. Born into the Jim Crow South in St. Louis back in 1928 as Marguerite Ann Johnson, Angelou lived through nearly the entire African-American 20th century – through periods segregation, de-segregation, the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power and Black Nationalist movements, and on up to the present so-called post-racial period here in America. She always had a story to tell and words to share, and Angelou’s ability to speak patiently yet eloquently made us all listen immediately.

The author of numerous autobiographies – including her most-known body of work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – collections of poetry – “Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman” remain conveniently quoted by women of color to this very day – and even of a number of plays, Angelou was the very definition of genius and artistry. She is known mostly for her writing but dabbled in acting and even recorded albums in her younger years. Her accomplishments and accolades are many, and include her being awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by current President Barack Obama back in 2011.

There was something undeniably “grandmotherly” about Angelou’s spirit at all times. She was like the wise woman or griot in the community who commanded respect and who made anyone and everyone feel like family. And though words have the ability to hurt and scar, Angelou was often careful with hers. In Caged Bird, Angelou admits to taking a vow of silence because she believed she had spoken into existence the death of someone who had hurt her as a child. Let us be thankful that she broke that silence and introduced us to the power of her words.

Rest in Power, Dr. Angelou