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Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou Earns Norman Mailer Award

Maya Angelou honored at benefit gala in New York Maya Angelou received the Norman Mailer Center Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday night where she revealed that she conquered racism and personal challenges in order to achieve all she has accomplished.

Dr. Angelou is 85 years old now but her spirit was as young and lively as ever on Thursday night.

The iconic poet gave a heartfelt lecture and sang her soul away as she accepted the award during a special benefit gala at the New York Public Library.

She wasn’t able to get out of her wheelchair, but she didn’t need to stand to capture the audience’s attention. The crowd was hushed as Angelou began reminiscing about her childhood in an extremely racist and segregated town in Arkansas.

“Imagine it,” Angelou said during her lecture, “a town so prejudiced black people couldn’t even eat vanilla ice cream.”

Despite living in a town where most Black people couldn’t even read or write, and especially not at the same educational level as whites, Angelou has become a world renowned literary genius.

While many people know Maya Angelou for her poetry and ground-breaking memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” she was also remembered as a dancer and an outstanding actress.

It wasn’t just her praises that were remembered either. She was also remembered as being incredibly stubborn – something which drove her to achieve most of her most remarkable accomplishments.

Robert Loomis, Angelou’s former editor from Random House, introduced the literary star which sparked a funny memory for the famous author.

According to Angelou, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” almost didn’t happen but it was Loomis who pushed her with a bit of reverse psychology.

Maya Angelou honored at benefit gala in New York Instead of encouraging her to pen the memoir, Loomis constantly told her how difficult such a task would be. By presenting it as a nearly impossible feat, Loomis gave Angelou a challenge she simply couldn’t resist.

“If you want to get Maya Angelou to do something, tell her she can’t,” Angelou explained.

This won’t be the last that the Big Apple will see of the soulful poet, either. Next month she is scheduled to make yet another appearance where she will receive an honorary National Book Award medal.

Other authors at the benefit gala who received awards were Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Diaz and a posthumous award for Michael Hastings was accepted by his widow Elise.

Elise Hastings understandably cried as she accepted the award which honored Michael’s outstanding journalism. He passed away just last year at the early age of 33 after a tragic car accident.

She described her late husband as a “dissident, a cynical idealist and a breathtaking writer.”

In past years the Mailer Center has also honored founding member of the Rolling Stones Keith Richards; American journalist Robert Caro who wrote an exceptional documentary on former President Lyndon B. Johnson; and 82-year-old novelist and editor Toni Morrison who is best known for her novels “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye.”


What people are saying

4 thoughts on “Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou Earns Norman Mailer Award

  1. Tara Murphy says:

    The most overrated poet in America. Schmaltz and cliches.

  2. Rosa Bogar says:

    Congrats Maya Angelou on your book award, I wish I could be there Nov.20,2013 but, I will be there in spirit!! I spoke with poet Eugene B. Redmond most recently. about your great honor. Joy! and peace! poet Rosa Bogar

  3. Rosa Bogar says:

    Dr. Maya Angelou is such an inspiration to me.I still "treasure" the letter she wrote me in January,1988 on a visit to the Twin Cities for a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. I hope that she received the copy of "Unquenchable Black Fires" by Dr. Leedell W. Neyland I forwarded a few months ago.. Joy! Rosa Bogar

  4. Rosa Bogar says:

    A-shaa to beloved poet Dr. Maya Angelou

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