This horrible picture is of Dr Maya Angelou. I had to take it with my cell phone camera because I was next to a hall monitor, I mean, security guard in the theater and didn’t want to pull out my DSLR and try to stealthily take a photo.
To quote my daughter DJ who I took with me, “She is the most amazing woman!”
I’ve read Maya Angelou and always marvel at her life – her experiences – her words. Her autobiographies, to me, always seemed fantastic in the twists and turns her life took. But to have this woman sit on stage – in front of maybe 500 people was just simply wow.
First off, we all felt like we were sitting in her living room, at her feet, listening to her tell us stories, read us poetry, and sing. That theater was small, but the way she talked to people – the way she interacted with the audience – just shrunk it smaller. She kept describing all of her children – people she has helped over the years, people she has taught, people who have come into her life and made a difference. And generally speaking – they include everyone. Every person who has read her book – every person who has listened to her speak – she considers her children. And we all felt like her children sitting at her feet.
Why? Because writers touch people. They show the world that someone has been through what they are going through right now and lived to tell the tale. She recited poetry – poetry she said off the cuff as though they were her own very words. And she talked about how each poem fills her up with hope when she is feeling down about something in her life. She encouraged the audience to go out and find poems to memorize. Poems – whatever poems that influence them regardless of how people have classified them as poems for men, women, whites, Blacks, Hispanics – it doesn’t matter – if it touches you, if it speaks to you, it is your poem too.
She exemplified this by talking about how, while memorizing some sonnets by Shakespeare, she decided he must have been a Black girl who was raped as a child after she read one of his sonnets. She then proceeded to recite it to us, and through her speaking his words, you saw in them what she saw – some hope that she would get through the abuse she had experience. You understood how she saw him as someone like her.
If you were to ask DJ what was the one thing she will always remember after hearing Dr Angelou speak, it was this:
“My life is important to someone – I just may not have met them yet.”
A story she told really drove this point home. She believes everyone’s life has value to someone other than ourselves; it is our job to live it so that, that someone can discover it. What a great message for a 10-year old preteen to hear.
For me, the words she used repeatedly throughout her talk is what I’ll remember:
“When it looks like the sun isn’t going to shine any more, God put a rainbow in the clouds,”
That rainbow is hope. Hope that the clouds will part – and the moon, sun, and stars will shine through once again. This was the image she used over and over and over again. Find that hope. Be that hope for others. Be someone’s rainbow. What a powerful message in this day age – when people are apt to be woe-is-me.
She only spoke for an hour – but I feel like she shared more than that with us. I feel very lucky to see such an amazing woman. If you have to chance, seize it. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear this amazing 82 year old woman speak and touch you as she did everyone tonight.