We’ve lost a voice, a poet, a writer, a teacher, a dancer, an actor, and a great American humanitarian: Maya Angelou has left the building.
Maya Angelou’s son, Guy B. Johnson said of her and her family: “Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension . . . She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”
For myself, I was first aware of her as a dancer: always a tall woman, she was filled with grace in her movement.
The next thing I remember about Maya was reading her book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I was innocent enough — we all were, back then — to be both shocked and entranced. Her life had been difficult, to say the least, and her words were music themselves. Her big, rich voice filled my heart and soul when I heard her speak.
I remember her “minor” part in Roots, the first TV “mini‑series.” She had a presence which could not be ignored. There was nothing “mini” about this gracious and soulful woman. I also grew to know her as a teacher: whether she was in a college classroom, a workshop, a TV appearance, she taught us all.
This is not a loss to the “Black” community, it is a loss to the World Community.
We have lost a true poet of life, a skilled and tender wordsmith, a friend to all those who are oppressed. Celebrate her life by picking up one of her books, or even “just” one of her poems. Read the poem, or a few passages aloud, and feel the music and magic of Maya Angelou.
See any of her books or listen to one of her audio‑tapes: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Mom & Me & Mom, Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou, The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter, The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women, Maya Angelou: Poems, The Heart of a Woman