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brought to you by: EspreeNet News Service
Published September 2002

Maya Angelou: A Lyrical Composer of the Times
Lucy Sanchez (EspreeNet News Service)

(New Brunswick, NJ) - Her voice soared like a songbird floating through air. Her poetry transcended time and history. Her wit prepared them for the future. Her laughter secretly exhaled her struggles her pains and her sorrows. Her challenges openly revealed her hope…her dreams and her expectations for the next generation.

Dr. Maya Angelou, world-renowned poet and writer spoke at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ on Oct. 28th.

She had the audience entrapped in her stories as she verbally drew scenes from her childhood growing up with her grandparents in Stamps, AK, dealing with her parents' divorce and being sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend. Shortly after the man accused of raping her was released from jail he was found murdered. He was kicked to death. Angelou said she refused to speak anymore after this experience because she feared her words would kill someone else.

This became too much for her mother to handle she said, so she was sent to live with her grandmother again.

Her grandmother, or "momma" as Angelou called her, stayed by her side and was confident she would speak again. She transported the audience to her grandmother's living room as she sat on a pillow on the floor while her hair was being braided. She repeated her grandmothers comforting words.

"I don't care what these people say about you must be an idiot and you must be a moron. Listen, momma don't care. Momma knows when you and the good Lord get ready you are going to be a teacher."

These words of encouragement motivated Angelou.

Her grandmother became a "composer" in Angelou's life. She supported her when others shied away from her. She reignited life in Angelou's spirit. She held up light when there was only darkness. Most importantly, she drew a path when there was no future. This is what it means to be a composer.

Needless to say Angelou eventually started speaking again.

She is currently on the board of the Harvard Library, has 55 Honorary Doctorates; teaches in Spanish and French; written bestsellers including: "Even the Stars Look Lonesome," "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "Gather Together in My Name," and the Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection "The Heart of a Woman;" written five collections of poetry; read at the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton on Jan. 20, 1993.

She has also been involved in theatre production and television.

All of this because "someone had the courage to be a composer in my life," Angelou said. She challenged the audience to have that same courage.

"You're already paid for," Angelou exclaimed. "Our ancestors have paid for each of us already. All you really have to do is prepare yourself so you can pay for someone else that has yet to come."

Angelou passed the torch of wisdom, change and academia to the next generation with a mixture of joy and sorrow.

"This is your world," Angelou emphatically said. "I'm sorry it's not better. One of the reasons I came here today is to apologize. I am really sorry for leaving you such a vulgar planet…I'm sorry I didn't do better or more and so are many of your parents.

This is your world. You're inheriting it now. Somebody is going to help us be better."

comments about this story: SanchezL@SoulOfSyracuse.com

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