Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Remembering Maya Angelou

Influences in our lives who changed the way the world perceives and believes . . . This is a reprint of an older post in a different section of the site a few years ago. At the time, it felt "right" to honor Maya Angelou. It feels "right" to re-visit that post today to acknowledge her death and to celebrate her life.

Maya Angelou: Author, Poet, and Mother to Many of us . . .

                                                         Maya Angelou

If I were to write an open letter to a list of writers who have impacted my life since childhood, the list would start with Maya Angelou. In my old neighborhood, we had, "Play mommas." These were women approved by our parents who joined in the community goal of helping us reach a healthy, productive, and spiritual adulthood. They would nurture, chastise, and comfort for the good of children and family.

As I began thinking about writing you this open letter, my heart filled with joy. What would I say?

Momma Angelou . . .
First, thank you for making my life brighter with childhood southern rural word portraits and adult snap shots from global travels. Your interior thought-scape not only helped me sidestep several major culture war landmines in the late sixties, but also shines a light on many of today's camouflaged PC gray cultural flagstone detonators.

At one point you became that wise aunt from "Out there in the world" that I had never met, but watched on TV speaking poetry to the nation at a president's inauguration. Youth are so hard to impress, but what a day! Many of my friends and I were so proud: we pronounced your name---a golden diamond pearl.

In my early twenties, I would curl up on the sofa with hot tea or warm milk while watching reruns of your programs that promoted children's literacy. You were always so "there," in the moment. Your voice warm and encouraging. The same voice that had a mischievous smile with a full-bellied laugh.

You loved many "poet's" work, but your rendition of "Jump Back Honey Jump Back" on Arsenio Hall put a swagger in that smile and laugh. I was rolling on the floor, going "No she didn't!" It was so hip, a smile still slides out when the memory parties through my thoughts.

Recently, I read your "The Heart of A Woman." So many memories of those days. Most history books do not do justice in retelling the micro-narrative complexities of Black people's lives during that era. Your woman's eye produced mini-postcards with a gender inflected arts community gaze.

Your participation in Dr. Dorothy Height's funeral inspired my courage to offer this letter of thanks, this tribute. You respected her leading by example. Your celebration of her home going sounded a quiet, eloquent fanfare. Dr. Height and you joined the mid -twentieth century struggle so that many of us in this generation can also lift voice to sing poems of spirit-life-words.

Our community used to have a saying: "Give them their flowers while they yet live."  Watch and enjoy Maya Angelou's introduction to her new book :  Letter to My Daughter. 

Momma Angelou, I do not know you personally, but I hope as a writer and poet to be included among your daughters. My mother loved poetry and really enjoyed your poems.Your life is an inspiration, a pearl of love from God. Thank you for sharing. I am a better women because of so precious a gift.

Delores Fisher

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