“My life has been one great joke, a dance that has walked, and a song that has spoken. I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself,” Maya Angelou.
On Thursday morning the world woke up to the sad news that the legendary Dr Maya Angelou, an internationally acclaimed author and poet, had passed away at the age of 86. During her time she won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stood out most about Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it is how she lived her life. She was a global renaissance woman who moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace.
What earned her veneration was the love she had for the world and humanity. On learning that she had passed Oprah Winfrey said on CNN that to her Angelou had been a mentor, mother, sister and friend since her 20’s. She reminisced on how Angelou was always there for her, guiding her through some of the most important years of her life.
“The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. One of the best lessons I learnt from her was the saying that when you learn, teach and when you get, give. I will profoundly miss her and she will always be the rainbow in my clouds,” said a teary eyed Winfrey.
Angelou’s book, “I Know why the caged bird sings,” is her most remarkable work to date. It tells the story of her life up to the age of 17. The book brought her international recognition and acclaim and was named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 best non-fiction books of all time. To date, with more than 30 bestselling titles and countless honours and awards, Angelou is rightfully hailed as one of the most renowned and influential voices of modern time. Through her highly revered work, she has also exposed some intimate stories from her childhood, including how her nurturing yet fiery mother challenged her to find strength in the face of adversity, sometimes with just a few loving words.
The inspiring working life of Angelou depicts a humble beginning. She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult including fry cook, nightclub dancer, performer to coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization. From 1982 onwards she really started to define herself in the eyes of many that she was destined for great things. She taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she held the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the civil rights movement, and worked with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993 Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, making her the second poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Her work brought her closer to the people because it was forever focused on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel.
Undoubtedly, Angelou is in the same league as legends such as Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. Her life is celebrated across the world and her most famous quotes have been shared throughout the world. MAY YOUR LOVING SOUL REST IN PEACE MAYA ANGELOU!