Dr. Maya Angelou AKA Marguerite Johnson
North Carolina Now Talk Show UNC TV : Aired: 08/28/2013
Dr. Angelou was an authentic “world historic individual”! I am proud to have recall of the times that I spent near and with her. I met Dr. Angelou face-to-face through my dear friend and employer the late, Larry Leon Hamlin founder of the National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF.org) in 1989. Dr. Angelou chaired the first national event still hosted in Winston Salem, NC. She invited the support of Oprah Winfrey. The encounters were intense at three periods of my life: 1) the National Black Theatre Festival in 1989; 2) two years later when I worked for Larry Leon and integrally supported the late Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee to in fact chair the second 1991 National Black Theatre Festival; and when, 3) Larry Leon hired me to promote Dr. Angelou’s play, “And Still I Rise” that he was in which featured, Clifton Davis.
Dr. Angelou was very close to my mentors, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and she loved to speak of her love for them and that she was smitten by Ossie all of her life chiding Ruby Dee whom she loved like a sister. It was amazing to be ear-shy of that priceless coterie of civil rights, humanities, performing arts family.
I was also a very close friend of her friend Dr. Selma Burke the sculptor who rendered the likeness of President F.D.R. who appears on the dime. Dr. Angelou loved her works and was a collector of many pieces.
For me as a poet her life and countenance was an “Odyssey-type” epic poem filled with uniquely reflective American growing pains. Dr. Maya Angelou was a poetic moving force and a new type of “free and prudent intellectual civil rights diva”. Her messages to the nation and the world including its content, cadences and metaphors were from:
1)personal victimization and triumph, to
2) domestic civil rights leadership and international self-determination stewardship, to
3) an authentic repartition with our pain and deliverance re-engaging a 60’s and 70’s emancipated Mother Africa,
4) engaging an emancipated eastern Europe embracing civil rights demonstration models and chants of the former American slave, and to
5) the continued struggles that African American educators have with institutional scholastic and civic leaders in our nation to fight off the continued attacks on ‘indivisible’ educational access and progress earned by African Americans as proven generational patriots and a integral moral compass for the general welfare of all constituencies living the positive side of our sovereign pluralistic experiment .
Personally, she was very talented and a very intense person. Her smile over me was like sunshine and her wrath in conceptual disagreement was like real family — making you stand or evaporate into the woodwork. I will forever love the way… she authentically loved and understand still… that she loves us! W. Calvin Anderson
Researched background on Dr. Maya Angelou by Tricia Anderson-Winters:
Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on 4 April 1928, Angelou was raised by her paternal grandmother after her parents’ divorced. At age 16, Angelou gave birth to a son, Guy, and took various jobs to help support him. After moving to New York to pursue a dancing career, she was cast in a production of Porgy and Bess that toured Europe and Africa.
In 1960 Maya Angelou, a single mother and struggling actor, accepted the position of northern coordinator for the New York office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). It was in this capacity that Angelou first met Martin Luther King, Jr. Although she worked with SCLC for only six months, King was “grateful” for her contribution, particularly the coordination of many several fundraising ventures (Angelou, 107).
After hearing King speak at a church in Harlem in early 1960, Angelou resolved to help SCLC raise funds by staging a revue, “Cabaret for Freedom.” The revue was a rousing success, with well-known black celebrities Sidney Poitier, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Lorraine Hansberry attending opening night.
Following Bayard Rustin’s departure from SCLC in 1960, Angelou succeeded him as director of the New York office. After two months on the job, Angelou met King on one of his visits to New York. In her autobiography, The Heart of a Woman, she discussed her first impressions of King: “He was shorter than I expected and so young. He had an easy friendliness, which was unsettling” (Angelou, 107).
In late 1960 Angelou met Vusumzi Make, a South African freedom fighter. The two were married in January 1961. That month Angelou officially resigned from her position and wished King, SCLC, and the cause “a year of unlimited strides.” In poetic style typical of Angelou, she closed the letter: “I join with millions of black people the world over in saying ‘You are our leader.’” (Angelou, 31 January 1961)
In 1962, Angelou moved to Cairo with Guy and her new husband and took a job as editor of the Arab Observer, a position she held for over a year. After her marriage ended, Angelou and her son lived in Ghana for several years before moving back to the United States in 1966.
Her first novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1970 to critical acclaim. Angelou went on to write four other volumes of her autobiography, published several volumes of poetry, and appeared on Broadway and in films. She delivered a poem at Bill Clinton‘s January 1993 inaugural celebration. Since 1981 Angelou is a lifetime Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Maya and Oprah
Researched information by Tricia Anderson-Winters
Angelou, Heart of a Woman, 1981.
Angelou to King and Wyatt Tee Walker, 31 January 1961, MLKP-MBU.
Stanford University – Bio of Dr. Maya Angelou
Stanford University – SCLC