Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya Angelou- a continuing inspiration

Maya Angelou; a continuing inspiration.


Maya Angelou passed away on May 28th in her home. She lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and was 86 years old.

Most famous for her 1969 New York Times bestseller novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was one of the few African American women who had such success in literature in the 1970s. She was successful in spheres other than literature as well. She taught at Wake Forest University for 40 years, was nominated for a Tony for her performance in Look Away, and delivered countless lectures and interviews about life as a young, African American girl living under Jim Crow laws in Arkansas. Angelou dedicated her life to retelling her past, a narrative that used to be deemed unworthy of discussion. The great strides she has made in race and gender equality won her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian medal in the United States, in 2011.

Her six memoirs, all written before the age of 40, explore the effects of Jim Crow laws and structural racism on African American individuals. Her writing was influenced African American oral tradition, for she wrote in a lyrical yet lucid way. Angelou told a Los Angeles Times reporter,  "In my work, in everything I do, I mean to say that we human beings are more alike than we are unalike, and to use that statement to break down the walls we set between ourselves because we are different..." Her message of celebrating differences while treating each other as equals encourages all of us to be better citizens. She will continue to inspire through her books and poems.

It is imperative as a society we continue Angelou’s legacy by forgiving each other, an act of kindness Angelou repeatedly emphasized, and remembering that there is more to gain by acting in love and equality than hatred and segregation. In 1993 Angelou spoke at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration, acknowledging that America has come a long way since her youth, but still has so much more to do in promoting civil rights.

Here are some of Angelou’s inspiring quotations:

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude about it.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.