Saturday, March 6, 2010

HerStory: Maya Angelou

To call Maya Angelou a writer is a massive understatement; she is so much more. At nearly 82 years old, she is the remarkable author of five autobiographical books, 12 best sellers in total. Her most well known project, internationally famed 1969 autobiographical novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, sits amongst the greats as a work of “high-art”. Angelou not only set the precedent for Black women writers, but for the autobiography genre as a whole.

Angelou busted down the doors of limitation and emerged boldly as the voice of the American Black woman, while at the same time blurring racial and socioeconomic divides. She was one of the first Black women to ever publicly discuss her personal life. And at a time when feminist writing was abundant with political and social commentary, Angelou practiced what they were preaching by opening herself up for the world to see in such a way that there was no way her voice could not be heard.

In the face of a childhood as unconventional and challenging as it can get, Angelou went on to become a Renaissance woman of art and self-expression as a singer, dancer, actress, playwright, producer, director, honoree professional, broadcaster, Inaugurate poet and Civil rights activist. Universities, literary organizations, government agencies, and special interest groups have honored her greatness. When Angelou turned 70, Oprah Winfrey hosted a week-long Caribbean cruise for 150 of Angelou's friends. The woman has arrived in so many ways, but still strives for more, in true LLADY style.

It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet,
I am a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Excerpt from the poem Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

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