Poet, dancer, author, actress and singer Maya Angelou taught the world how to defy the odds. We recognize this as part of her legacy as we commemorate her on the one-year anniversary of her death. Angelou, born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, faced giants that could have possibly debilitated her. One of those giants was being a survivor of sexual abuse. She was a teacher and taught us how to navigate through life.
This past year, the U.S. Postal Service reminded us of the reasons that Angelou knew “why the caged bird sang” by releasing a stamp in her honor with a quote used as inspiration from her 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which states, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Although the quote was not said by Angelou — it came from Joan Walsh Anglund’s A Cup of Sun — it is still befitting to be used in her honor. Angelou displayed the essence of a Black woman with a painful, yet honest, song.
Maya, the Tough Teacher
When asked in an interview “Are you a hard teacher?” Angelou responds by stating, “I’m tough. I’m loving and I’m tough.” Angelou saw everyone, especially Black people, as her children. “I must tell you the truth as I understand it because you may be the last person that I speak to,” stated Angelou in an interview. “Life is life and death is death. So I must be telling the truth when I speak.” In this same interview, Angelou spoke of a time where she was able to teach rapper Tupac Shakur about his worth, a lesson that many of us still need to learn today. She asked Shakur, “When was the last time anyone told you how important you are?” Even in death, her powerful voice resonates with us and allows us to reconsider that question for our own lives.
“It would be wonderful to live as long as I am going to live and be present,” stated Angelou. “What I really want to do is be a representative of is my race; the human race.” In passing a year ago today at the age of 86, Angelou successfully embodied everything that she taught us, which was goodness and living in righteousness.