Saturday, June 14, 2014

Every emotionally distraught person who thinks they have a horrible life should know more about the life of the late Maya Angelou who somehow managed to live a long and colorful life who died recently.  I don’t think anybody really knows how this person experienced the worst of the worst and best of the best. Life is a journey and how we overcome all the adversity we face by looking at how she was faced   with extreme adversity in her life is a lesson we all need to learn.

Imagine going through a trauma early in life so horrific that it would leave you speechless for   five   years.  Well of course no one wants to imagine that but it was a reality for Maya Angelou.  Eventually she found her voice and on today this Flag Day, we should be celebrating that she became the voice of so much good in this country.  My really first exposure to her was when I saw her speaking at President Clinton’s Inauguration.  She seemed to look like an ordinary woman but I was amazed at how eloquently she spoke.  She became the voice of this nation.

Her life story was epic.  She was a singer, a poet, an activist and a friend to many Presidents.  She became a voice for black America in 1969 when she wrote her best-selling book called I Know Why The   Caged Bird Sings.  She would write things like,   ”The horizon leans forward offering you space to place new steps of change.” She had a comforting   voice that made you feel like we can all just get better.  By 1993 President Clinton asked her   to read a poem   at his first   Inauguration.  And after that she became a household name.

But long before her words captured American audiences it was her   voice   as a   Calypso singer that earned her a living.  In her lifetime Maya learned to speak   six languages, win three Gramys and write more than 30 books.  She earned the respect and fame from many people from all over the world, all colors, all faiths and all ages.  She made us realize the power of   words over weapons.  How does anybody accomplish this even when they come from a great   background?

At seven years old she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.  When she told what had happened to her, the man was murdered.  The policeman said that it appeared that he was kicked to death.  Her seven year old logic thought that it was her voice that killed him.  So she stopped speaking.  She did not speak for five years.  She would spend her time just sitting in the back of her   grandmother’s   general store reading the classics   and memorizing     Shakespeare. She lived in the middle of suffering.  She realized that when she looked in the mirror that she was black at a time in America when black people were treated very differently from white people.

At 16 she had a child.  At 18 she ran a brothel.  By 20 she was   dancing in a strip joint.  Who does all that by age 20?  Who is   able to be a respected person for the rest of their lives?  Not many.  But she was able to rise from the muck that was her life.  This is why I think all struggling young people who are looking for their own identity should study the life of Maya Angelou.  It was her mother who gave her the inspiration   to change her life.  One day   her Mother told her that she was the greatest person that she ever met.  Maya   was shocked considering all the crazy things she had already done in her life but she appreciated her Mother’s’ comment greatly. So she decided that maybe it was about time that she stop smoking, stop the prostitution stop cursing because she just might be somebody.

She became somebody important.  We should all have the determination that she had to make her life better and be a better person.  She looked to self - respect instead of just satisfying the fleshy needs of   men.  How many people do you know that suddenly have the courage to suddenly reinvent themselves?  Even her name comes from a struggle.  She was born Margarete Ann Johnson and her stuttering brother could only call her Maya.  Angelo was her married name.  She dropped the husband but kept the name.  She took the worst that life can give, found some good in it and then told the world.  Maya Angelou was born in 1928 and died this month. 

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