“And Angelou’s life has certainly been a full one: from the hardscrabble Depression era South to pimp, prostitute, supper club chanteuse, performer in Porgy and Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, journalist in Egypt and Ghana in the heady days of decolonization, comrade of Malcolm X, and eyewitness to the Watts riots. She knew King and Malcolm, Billie Holiday, and Abbey Lincoln.”
John McWhorter, The New Republic (McWhorter, p. 36)
Extolled for her contribution to the world through works like “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,””And Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman.”, Maya Angelou’s life was a life of risk taking. Through those risks she took, she bestowed the world with a rich legacy of wisdom. Angelou’s struggle during the 1940s, as she lived in different Californian locations, working a variety of jobs that included nightclub dancer, Creole cook, paint remover at a dent and body shop, and serving as both a madam and sex worker at a San Diego brothel, have endowed her with a profound wisdom for this complex world we live in.
This month, we would like to celebrate her life with a selection of interviews from Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class series and other TV programs. Through those interviews, Maya Angelou left us with some interesting thoughts about living.
“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.'”
“If a human being dreams a great dream,dares to love somebody; if a human being dares to be Martin King, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Mother Theresa, or Malcolm X; if a human being dares to be bigger than the condition into which she or he was born—it means so can you. And so you can try to stretch, stretch, stretch yourself so you can internalize, ‘Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto. I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.’ That’s one thing I’m learning.”
Courage and Doing Right
“Without courage you cannot practise any virtue consistently…”
“At 18 or 20, you might be doing many things and if you are blessed, you will come of that, you might forgive yourself and that is the most important thing”