Maya Angelou Tribute

Maya Angelou circa 1970
The phenomenal poet, activist and historian Maya Angelou was called home today at the age of 86.
While this news is very sorrowful to hear... I think we can all agree that Maya Angelou has left the world in a better place than she found and she will be missed dearly. She connected with so many souls through her literacy works sharing her love and wisdom. I really wish I could of attended a lecture of hers, I am sure just being in Maya Angelou's presence was enlightening. Rest In Peace Queen!

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.”
- from the works Letter to My Daughter



“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”



To choose a favorite literary work of Maya Angelou is quite hard...she has left us a plethora of great works to choose from. Below are some of her works I've recited in the past for classes and open mics.


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Weekend Glory
Some clichty folks
don't know the facts,
posin' and preenin'
and puttin' on acts,
stretchin' their backs.

They move into condos
up over the ranks,
pawn their souls
to the local banks.
Buying big cars
they can't afford,
ridin' around town
actin' bored.

If they want to learn how to live life right
they ought to study me on Saturday night.

My job at the plant
ain't the biggest bet,
but I pay my bills
and stay out of debt.
I get my hair done
for my own self's sake,
so I don't have to pick
and I don't have to rake.

Take the church money out
and head cross town
to my friend girl's house
where we plan our round.
We meet our men and go to a joint
where the music is blue
and to the point.

Folks write about me.
They just can't see
how I work all week
at the factory.
Then get spruced up
and laugh and dance
And turn away from worry
with sassy glance.

They accuse me of livin'
from day to day,
but who are they kiddin'?
So are they.

My life ain't heaven
but it sure ain't hell.
I'm not on top
but I call it swell
if I'm able to work
and get paid right
and have the luck to be Black
on a Saturday night.




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Phenomenal Women
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.


---------------------------------------------------
I know why the caged bird sings
A free bird leaps on the back
Of the wind and floats downstream
Till the current ends and dips his wing
In the orange suns rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for
The caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through
The sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright
Lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with
A fearful trill of things unknown
But longed for still and his
Tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.


----------------------------------------------------------
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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A short synopsis of Maya Angelou childhood and a few of her achievements.

Born Marguerite Annie Johnson, it is said that her brother Bailey was unable to pronounce her name because of a stutter, Bailey called her "My" for "My sister." A few years later, when he read a book about the Maya Indians, he began to call her "Maya," and the name stuck. 
At age seven, while visiting her mother in Chicago, she was sexually molested by her mother's boyfriend. Too ashamed to tell any of the adults in her life, she confided in her brother. When she later heard the news that an uncle had killed her attacker, she felt that her words had killed the man. She fell silent and did not speak for five years.
Maya began to speak again at 13, when she and her brother rejoined their mother in San Francisco. Maya attended Mission High School and won a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco's Labor School, where she was exposed to the progressive ideals that animated her later political activism. She dropped out of school in her teens to become San Francisco's first African American female cable car conductor. She later returned to high school, but became pregnant in her senior year and graduated a few weeks before giving birth to her son, Guy. She left home at 16 and took on the difficult life of a single mother, supporting herself and her son by working as a waitress and cook, but she had not given up on her talents for music, dance, performance and poetry.
via achievement.org

1970 Chubb Fellowship Given by Yale University, provides the recipient with an opportunity to make a public address open to the Yale and New Haven communities
1971 Coretta Scott King Honor Given to African-American authors and illustrators of books for children and young people
1972 Pulitzer Prize nomination For Angelou's first book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie
1973 Tony Award nomination For her role in the Broadway play Look Away
1981 Reynold's Professor of American Studies, Wake Forest University Lifetime appointment
1983 Ladies' Home Journal "Top 100 Most Influential Women" Yearly award given by the magazine
1983 Matrix Award Given by the New York Association for Women in Communications to women who excel in the field of communication
1993 Inaugural Poet Named for reading her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration
1993 Grammy, "Best Spoken Word Album" First Grammy, for inaugural poem "On The Pulse of Morning"
1995 Grammy, "Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Album" For Angelou's performance of her poem Phenomenal Woman
1996 American Ambassador Given by UNICEF to assist with their fundraising efforts
1997 NAACP Image Award Honors African Americans' accomplishments in film, television, music, and literature, and for Angelou's work in Nonfiction
2000 National Medal of Arts Selected by President Bill Clinton, given by the U.S. National Council on the Arts to Americans who have contributed to the arts and culture
2002 Lifetime Achievement Award Given as part of the Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards (EMMAs) presented at the annual Hay Festival of Literature & Arts in Wales
2002 Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album For the audio book of "A Song Flung Up to Heaven," Angelou's sixth autobiography
2012 Black Cultural Society Award Given by Elon University in North Carolina, for humanitarian contributions for the promotion of world cultures
2013 Norman Mailer Prize (Lifetime Achievement) Given by the The Norman Mailer Center and The Norman Mailer Writers Colony to celebrate writers and their works.

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Maya Angelou's son Guy Johnson is often asked what it's like to be Dr. Maya Angelou's son. He says he never felt as if he lived in her shadow. Instead, he lived in her light.
Check out the video here: http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Guy-Johnson-on-Being-Dr-Maya-Angelous-Son-Video

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Maya Angelou's tribute poem to Nelson Mandela was so touching... this is definitely worth watching.

His Day is Done

http://youtu.be/PqQzjit7b1w




Maya Angelou's tribute poem to Michael Jackson

We Had Him
Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing
Now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind

Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace
Sing our songs among the stars and and walk our dances across the face of the moon

In the instant we learn that Michael is gone we know nothing
No clocks can tell our time and no oceans can rush our tides
With the abrupt absence of our treasure

Though we our many, each of us is achingly alone
Piercingly alone
Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him

He came to us from the Creator, trailing creativity in abundance
Despite the anguish of life he was sheathed in mother love and family love and survived and did more than that

He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style
We had him
Whether we knew who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his
We had him

Beautiful, delighting our eyes
He raked his hat slant over his brow and took a pose on his toes for all of us and we laughed and stomped our feet for him

We were enchanted with his passion because he held nothing
He gave us all he had been given

Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana's Blackstar Square, in Johannesburg, in Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama and Birmingham England, we are missing Michael Jackson

But we do know that we had him
And we are the world.