Michelle Obama spoke this weekend at the memorial service for beloved author Maya Angelou, who died on May 28 at age 86. Her tearful and touching speech remembers Angelou for celebrating Black women’s beauty. “Oh, how desperately black girls needed that message,” the First Lady said. “As a young woman, I needed that message.”
Read Mrs. Obama’s full speech after the jump:
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It must had been in third grade that my daughter Ella was assigned a project for Black History Month. She was assigned Maya Angelou.
I was unaware of how this selection would impact my view of being a feminist mom.
We eagerly trekked to the public library to check out children’s books on Angelou. I expected the usual broad view on Angelou’s life illustrated by cute watercolors — not so much a whitewash of Angelou’s life, but one that would be generally acceptable for elementary children to read. As with any revolutionary figure, the book would have to deal with racism and discrimination. What I had not planned on was the book, if not both, to deal head on with Angelou’s rape at the age of eight by her mother’s boyfriend. Keep reading »
The death of Maya Angelou, a lioness of American arts and letters, marked the end of her truly extraordinary career. She leaves behind a body of work that is, quite frankly, exhaustive. The Poetry Foundation has a full list of Angelou’s contributions to literature, poetry, theater and film and many her poems can be found on Poem Hunter.
I also thought I would share some videos of Angelou reading some of her most well-known pieces. Above is Angelou reading her famous poem “Still I Rise.” Here are a few more after the jump. Keep reading »
Maya Angelou, a poet and civil rights activist, has died at 86. Angelou is most well-known for her memoir I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings about growing up poor and Black in the South and she leaves behind a trove of poetry, plays, and other books. Angelou was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King and James Baldwin. She was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for a book of poetry in 1971, read a poem at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2011, and a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in 2013. In her later life, Angelou was an educator at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her death was confirmed by her literary agent this morning. [Charlotte.TWCnews.com; New York Times]
Today is the 86th birthday of one of the most beloved writers of our generation, Maya Angelou! The Wake Forest University professor is perhaps most famous for her 1969 memoir I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, as well as reading a poem at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, winning the Pulitzer Prize for one of her poetry collections, and a nomination for an Emmy for her work on the TV series “Roots.” Oh, and let’s not forget the Presidential Medal Of Freedom! Angelou is a lifelong civil rights activist, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and was the first-ever Black female cable car conductor in San Francisco. She was friends with Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King and James Baldwin and these days is friends with none other than Oprah Winfrey. In memory of her birthday, I poked around YouTube looking for a good video of Angelou reading one of her poems, but I settled on this snippet from “Oprah’s Master Class.” It’s a short, lovely meditation on being human and a reminder why Maya Angelou is a national treasure. [Biography.com, YouTube]
Beyonce’s not done, y’all. In addition to blessing the world with the best Christmas gift ever just a week ago, Bey — or should we call her Yonce now? — is releasing her third fragrance, called Rise, inspired by her favorite Maya Angelou poem. Perhaps that poem is “Still I Rise,” which includes the line:
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?
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Here is the poet Dr. Maya Angelou, age 83, reading a letter she wrote to her 15-year-old self. “Find a beautiful piece of art,” she says. “Realize that was created by a human being just like you. No more human, no less.” Gorgeous. Definitely worth a listen. [CBS News]
You’d best believe I’d be pissy if I’d wasted my weekend fielding phone calls from frantic friends and family who thought I was dead! But leave it to Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
, to be as polite as can be responding to rumors that she’s kicked the bucket. The very-much-alive 81-year-old poet says the rumors “based on an erroneous account” that she’s been hospitalized and headed to the Pearly Gates are a “burden,” especially after her young grandson called her in hysterics. Miss Class Act, though, looks genuinely concerned for the mortal soul of whoever’s spreading this nasty gossip. “I feel sorry for a person who only has that much of life,” she said. “You should be living your own life, not talking about someone else’s death!”
Methinks Ms. Angelou hasn’t taken her head out of a poetry book in the past 10 years long enough to notice rumor-mongering about celeb deaths is a far more popular pastime than, saying, reading poetry. But really, people, she’s lived a hard life. Let the lady grow old in peace! Keep reading »