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    Posted June 7, 2014 by
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    In Memoriam

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    God Put A Rainbow In The Clouds: Remembering Dr. Maya Angelou


    When professors think of Literature, they think of making their students read and analyze the books “I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings”. When poets think of a piece to share at a Black History or Poetry event, they think of the pieces “Still I Rise” or “Phenomenal Woman”. When politicians have to select someone to speak at their inauguration, they think of someone with Grace, with a Message, and with Poise that will educate an entire room with their silence. When colleges seek candidates to employ to teach their students, they look for an educator, a person with wisdom and knowledge in that particular field of study, and they look for a person with high credentials. When Americans look for anything, whether it’s a book, a poem, or a professor, they have all sought out Dr. Maya Angelou!


    Marguerite Annie Johnson was born on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, Angelou's career as a performer began to take off when she landed a role in a touring production of “Porgy and Bess”, later appearing in the off-Broadway production “Calypso Heat Wave” (1957) and releasing her first album, “Miss Calypso” (1957). In 1961, Angelou appeared in an off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's “The Blacks” with James Earl Jones, Lou Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson. But it wasn’t until 1969 that she made history, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. In 1972, she became the first African-American woman to have her screenplay “Georgia, Georgia” produced and then went on to earn a Tony Award nomination for her role in the play “Look Away” (1973) and an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the television miniseries “Roots” (1977) and many more.


    One of Angelou's most famous works is the poem "On the Pulse of Morning," which she wrote especially for and recited at President Bill Clinton's inaugural ceremony in January 1993 and she went on to win a Grammy Award (best spoken word album) for the audio version of the poem. This is just a piece of Maya’s story, or we can go on to talk about her teaching at Wake Forest University and  how her works were recited in the movie “Poetic Justice” and read by Janet Jackson. We can go on talking about Marguerite Annie Johnson, but even though she passed on May 28, 2014, we can now remember and carry on her legacy of strength, zeal, dedication, friendship, and love.


    Maya once said:


    Out of the huts of history's shame, I rise

    Up from a past that's rooted in pain, I rise

    I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise

    Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear, I rise

    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

    I rise

    I rise

    I rise.

    -       Excerpt from the Poem “Still I Rise”

    That’s right, she rise, you rise, I rise, because of Maya Angelou, we all have risen to an epitome of greatness, leaving no room for wait or uncertainty. Through all that she endured, she rose above any racial injustice, industry discrimination, and pride destroyers. She took every negative aspect of her life and made it into a legacy that we have to celebrate for many years to come. Poetry is what connected me to Maya, and my pen continues to write pieces that inspire, motivate, and educate, just like this article I am writing now. I thank you Dr. Maya for your voice, because you gave myself and many others the confidence to speak, the love to write, the respect of life, and the joy in laughter.


    You will truly be missed, but I am sure we will remain busy reading, talking, sharing, and reciting everything about you. I remember receiving a letter from you, after I sent you a copy of my book, “My Side of the Story”, and you told me in my letter; "Keep writing, keep sharing, and keeping using your voice because it’s the most important thing you will ever have in life." At first, I didn’t know what you meant, but after writing and publishing 2 books, writing and producing 4 plays, and writing tons of song lyrics, I now understand what a simple voice can do!!  Because of your legacy, my pen now has a legacy as well!! We celebrate you today, and always!!


    I am not a writer who teaches, I am a teacher who writes! ~ Dr. Maya Angelou

    I told you that she left a mark in the lives of many, and I am blessed to share some of their thoughts with you. She rose, so we can rise….


    “This my reflection on Dr. Maya Angelou -  Maya Angelou was an amazing human being. After years of silence as a young child, she became a child of God, earning the degree of life to share with the world. Her artistry, infused with activism, language, and history has been most inspiring to me. I will always strive for excellence and peace, while never forgetting the powerful messages that Dr. Angelou poured into my life.” - LaTonya Branham, author and educator from Dayton, Ohio


    “As I sit here reading all the posts about Maya Angelou aka Marguerite Ann Johnson I am overwhelmed with conviction and tears. As a writer, poet, actress, dancer, and a black woman I look at her as measure of how imperfection yields so much beauty! Know that once you write your poem or story on paper...it’s NO LONGER YOUR's!!! Once you step on stage to deliver those lines....YOU ARE NO LONGER YOUR'S.....Once that dance leaves your mind and manifests itself through your limbs....IT and YOU are no longer YOUR'S!!!!!! Your legacy should impact generations!!!! Ontaria Kim Wilson-poet, author, playwright , actress, choreographer, friend, sister, aunt, teacher, cousin, teacher, lover, and whatever else I need to become so that someone may come in contact with LOVE! Healing, faith,...with GOD!!”  - Ontaria Kim Wilson, Dancer and Choreographer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    “Dr Maya Angelou is the lady who truly help me to become the writer and the strong woman that I am today. She taught me how to express my feelings into strength and positive building blocks which help to shape me into the woman that I am today. The best Professor I have ever had in my whole entire educational journey. She once said to me "I never gave up Cass so why should you! So go bust MIT wide open and one day write your story" - Cassie Gainey, Actress and Singer from Reston Virginia

    “Watching the memorial Service of Dr. Maya Angelou. Brought back memories of how I was introduced to work. I was 22 years old working as a bellhop in a hotel in East Brunswick, NJ with a 3 year old son and a mother back home in Atlantic County dying of cancer. Someone left a paperback book of "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" at the pool desk where I was sitting for three days because the life guard was fired. I read it and it CHARGED (not changed) my life! I wondered "why hadn't heard of her before?"...but I now realize that God sent her words to me at the appropriate time. I RAN TO THE LIBRARY TO READ THE OTHER BOOKS IN HER SERIES. Her life testimony gave me the courage to trust God and allow my mother to go home to be with The Lord in piece and to pick up and move to Chicago with little money and my 4 year old against the advice of everyone in my circle. I figured God would provide and if Maya could pack up and move to Eqypt with kid in tow Chicago (with US Air buddy passes to get back and forth - Thanks Nina) would be nothing. That year was not easy but well worth it; not only did I survive, but it made me stronger. I have many of her books, some in print, others on audio (you have to hear the audio it's as if she's speaking directly to you); even the cook book. Thank you Dr. Angelou for sharing your life UNFILTERED, it has shown me the power of Love, Courage, Respect, and Honesty.” - Kendra Newman-Nelson, Mother and Educator from New Jersey


    Maya once said:


    The caged bird sings

    with a fearful trill

    of things unknown

    but longed for still

    and his tune is heard

    on the distant hill

    for the caged bird

    sings of freedom.

    -       Excerpt from the Poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing”



    written by Charron Monaye (www.penlegacy.com)

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