The “Phenomenal Woman” has died: Remembering Maya Angelou

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” ~ Dr. Maya Angelou

Unknown-1I met Dr. Maya Angelou through her writings at the tender age of twelve.  She taught me lessons in femininity, overcoming adversity and writing as a means of self- discovery.  I would meet her in person on May 3, 2004 at Buffalo State College at an event I had titled “Poetry: When Words Unite.”  The picture of us together is in my office, taken with a disposable camera.  When she graced the stage, she commented of my performance, “I encourage Ms. Thomas (my maiden name) to stay with poetry.”  More than ten years later, I am still in love with words that rhyme.

She shared with us her thoughts on poetry and writing, describing poetry as “the rainbow in the cloud.”  She continued, “We, ourselves, can be rainbows in the cloud.  Who has any idea of the power of that rainbow?” Dr. Angelou said of writing, “I write when I must, when something begs to be written.”

Her descriptions are certainly true and speak for most writers– if not all.  For me, writing is like relieving an itch or as a stay at home mother now, calming a demanding toddler who wants more grapes or to go outside now.  The words in my mind demand to be satisfied, to be written down now.

I was her opening act (She gave me a thumbs up as I entered the stage.) and later, she would meet with me along with another student who had planned the event on her bus.  I racked my mind trying to find the right question.  I didn’t want to waste my time with her or want her to feel that she had wasted hers with us.

The question?  “What’s your favorite word?”  Dr. Angelou replied, “Joy.”  She signed my book using that word. Well, I certainly have joy in knowing that this once caged bird sung freely and joyously, that she liberated other birds along the way with her words.  When we often hear of the words persons have spoken that cause such sadness and confusion, it is good to remember “The Phenomenal Woman,” who used words to unite us with our selves and others.

 

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