Angelou Maya 1928 - 2014 (86)

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.


Caged Bird

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun 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.

Maya Angelou (real name: Marguerite Johnson) was an awarded African American activist, novelist, and a great poet. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928, a time of great racial tension. Her father was a janitor and a sailor and her mother a nurse and a clerk at the casino. Her parents divorced when she was 3 and her brother 4; they put them on a train alone and send them to live with their paternal grandmother. In that time of great depression, their grandmother were doing well, keeping a food and household products shop; they lived quite well there for four years until their father suddenly appeared and returned them to their mother in St Louis. Maya were beaten and raped at the age of 8 by her stepfather. She talked to her brother and he talked to their mother so the perpetrator was arrested but was released the following day. He was then beaten to death, more likely from some of their relatives. Maya blamed herself for his death, because she had spoken; she didn’t say a word for the next 6 years, during which the children were given back to their grandmother. This silent period she developed a love for literature and the ability to listen and observe people and things in depth. At 14, the children went again with their mother in Oakland. She finished high school and three weeks later she gave birth to her only son. Then she became the first black conductor on trams, and in 1951 she married a Greek-American sailor and ambitious musician, Theodosio Angelou, at a time that mixed marriages was condemned by both whites and blacks. Maya with her son and husband moved to New York where she tried to become a professional dancer. At that point she adopted the name Maya Angelou which was more suitable for her artistic ambitions. In 1954 she toured for two years Europe, taking part as a dancer in the opera Porgy and Bess. From every European country they crossed, she learned with great ease the local language. In 1957 she tried his vocal abilities and pulled out a disc that after years in 1996 came out and as cd. In 1959 she met Nobel prize winner Oliver Killens who urged her to write and in 1960 she met Martin Luther King, Jr.; she became an activist for the civil rights of blacks.

In 1961 she met South African Vusumsi and moved with him to Cairo where she worked as an editor of an English-language newspaper. In 1962 she divorced and with her son went to Ghana where she had a serious car accident. She stayed until 1965 in Accra working as administrative in the city university, where she met Malcolm X. She returned to America with him and created an organization claiming equal rights for blacks. They had just start working for this organization when Malcolm X was assassinated; disappointed and devastated went to Hawaii where she tired to become a singer. She had quite a success and in 1967 she returned to New York. Some of her friends who believed in her literary talent they provided her with a monthly allowance so she could devote herself to writing. In 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. asked her to organize a protest march, she had just begun organizing it when he was murdered. Once again she was devastated and into depression for a while, she channeled her creativity into a successful documentary on the blues and the following year she wrote her autobiography "I know why song birds in cages" that made her known throughout the world. The following years she will write another six volumes and she will create in a frenzy pace, articles, short stories, plays, scripts and amazing poems. In 1977 she took part in the television series Roots (Roots) while in 1982 the university was established although they had a university degree. In 1981 the wife of her son disappeared taking her grandson, they discovered them eight years later. In 1991 her mother died and in 2000 her brother; in 2009 a rumor spread that she was dying while she had no health problem. Angelou had many friends and often entertained people of art and intellect at home, she was an excellent cook and host, had even published a book with recipes. In 2013 she wrote the last book of the autobiography in which she addressed her relationship with her mother and in 2014, on May 28, died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.