Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou 1928 - 2014

I have always admired the intellectual integrity and emotional depth of Maya Angelou even though I think she had political blind spots when it came to Bill Clinton and especially Barack Obama.

Still, it saddens me to read about her passing today.  But this is the course of life and she will live on in word and deed for longer than most of us. 

About a decade ago I bought three of her seven autobiographies in Portland and read in "The Heart of a Woman" (1981) that she was once married to Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) stalwart Vusumzi Make.

I asked my late dad if Robert Sobukwe ever mentioned the marriage between Vusumzi Make and Maya Angelou but he did not know.

That aside, reading Maya Angelou is always a journey into a quest for a greater human spirit.  Just recently I was passing time in a tea shop in Delhi and reading a recent article  she wrote on her mother, Vivian Baxter, entitled: "My terrible, wonderful mother" (The Guardian: March 30, 2014).

The article is an extract from her 2014 book entitled "Mom and Me and Mom".

 Maya Angelou and her mother, Vivian Baxter (Credit)

Her relationship with her mother was intense and often marked by disagreement and distance.  Over time she made peace with the "elegant" Vivian Baxter.  It is a remarkable story of resilience and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a recurring theme in her writing.  Perhaps she has a liberating lesson for all of us with this quote: "It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive.  Forgive everybody."

If you have not read her, start now.  If you have, read her again.

May her passing prompt many more young folks - especially girls and women - to pick up her books and read about a woman who dared to define her character and worth in a world too trapped in ugliness and despair.

Perhaps it is best to remember her life as she wanted:
“What I would really like said about me is that I dared to love.  By love I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage and build bridges, and then to trust those bridges and cross the bridges in attempts to reach other human beings.”
 May she rest in peace.

Update (May 30): See "Reconciling Maya Angelou's Legacy With Her Support of Clarence Thomas" by Philip Martin (Huffington Post Politics: May 29).

No comments: