Meridian Star

Columns

May 30, 2014

The caged bird is free …

MERIDIAN — The world lost a great voice this week – a voice of deep passion, filled with agony and joy. Poet and writer, Maya Angelou died May 28 at the age of 86.

    She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. When she was 3, Maya and her brother were sent to live with paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas. The nation was in the depths of the Great Depression at this time, but Maya’s grandmother was an astute businesswoman, who owned a large general store, therefore Maya and her brother were supplied with necessary material needs. The children seemed to adjust to their new home.

    Then, their father returned them to live with their mother in St. Louis. This is when Maya’s heartache began. At age 8, her mother’s boyfriend raped her. Maya told her brother and he told the entire family. The man was only in jail one day. Four days later, Maya’s uncles kicked him to death. Immediately after this, Maya became mute for five years. She felt such guilt that she lost her voice.

    Thus, began the life of a deep feeling, extraordinary woman, with the great ability to listen and observe the world around her.

    After this terrible time, Maya and her brother were sent back to their grandmother. There Maya met family friend and teacher, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, who introduced her to the literary world. For the first time, Maya read Dickens, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson and many additional voices of the written word.

    Maya wrote seven autobiographies detailing her life. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Gather Together in My Name, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, The Heart of a Woman, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, and The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou.

    In her written work, Maya delves into rape, prostitution, poverty, crime, interracial marriage and relationship; defense of black culture and as well her lack of a university degree. She speaks of her experiences as a dancer, restaurant cook, and role as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco.

    It is clearly evident Maya learned through each life experience and what she learned was shared with the world.

    She danced in the nightclub, the Purple Onion in San Francisco, toured Europe with a production of Porgy and Bess, and appeared off-Broadway in a review inspired by the film, Calypso Heat Wave.  In 1960, she met Martin Luther King and joined Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

    The following year she moved to Cairo, Egypt, and worked as associate editor for the English-language newspaper, The Arab Observer, followed by another job offer in Accra, Ghana working as an administrator at the University of Ghana. Along the way, she met Louis Gossett, Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey, and many others who influenced her life.

    In 1968 she wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970 and remained on The New York Times paperback bestseller list for two years.

    Maya recited her poem, On the Pulse of Morning, at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. The poem was awarded a Grammy Award. There are so many accomplishments by this brave, talented woman that I do not have the space to list them all, but I would like to end this Maya Angelou inspired column with the first few verses of the poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – my favorite.

Text Only
Columns
Biz Marquee
New Today
Poll

Do you think the tax free holiday for school clothes and shoes under $100 that began Friday and ends at midnight tonight is needed to help parents of school children?

Yes
Np
     View Results
Facebook
Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Palestinians and Israeli Soldiers Clash Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide