The world has been stricken with sad news this morning, as it has been announced that famed poet and author, Maya Angelou, has passed away at the age of 86, which was officially confirmed by her literary agent Helen Brann. Angelou, who had penned a multitude of literary masterpieces during her illustrious career – and most notably known for her poignantly written “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” – was scheduled to make an appearance at the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon this coming Friday, where she was apparently going to be honored for her never-ending contributions to the civil rights movement, but unexpectedly canceled after it was reported she was suffering from an undisclosed illness and simply cited “health reasons” for the pending absence.
Born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, under the name Marguerite Annie Johnson (she later adopted the name “Maya” from her older brother and “Angelou” from Tosh Angelos), Maya had an unbelievable knack for not only crafting the most astounding pieces of work at an early age, but she also had the abilities and extraordinary talents within the realms of theater and singing, where she later caught her big break in the 1950’s (“Porgy and Bess,” and “Calypso Lady”), later racking up a heap of awards, such as a Tony and Emmy (for the riveting television 1970’s series “Roots”), respectively.
And through all of her trials and tribulations in her pastime, which consisted of poverty and segregation, Angelou persevered and defied all odds, as she outspokenly detailed much of the horrifying yet life-shattering events of sexual abuse within her text, which would later catapult her to the very top of distinguished poets, and thus, making her the most highly regarded authors of our generation. But before the 1969 release of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” the wordsmith made a pilgrimage to Africa where she worked as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana, also receiving praise from a fellow named Malcolm X for her diligent work for the Black community with her books/content, along with her rather attentive involvement for the civil rights movement, which – well, led to both collaborating with one another for the latter’s Organization of Afro-American Unity.
In January, 1993, the Pulitzer Prize winner was selected to read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s swearing in, where he first addressed the public as the President of the U.S. That poem – similar to her previous emotionally-inspired works of art – centered on America’s historical and societal transformations, specifying that the good ole United States had indeed come a long way from its atrocities, while conveying the message of togetherness for then and the future.
And, yes, decades later at her appearance at the White House in 2011, a rather proud Angelou relayed this same powerful message during a moving speech to our first Black president, President Obama:
"I'm excited. I'm hopeful. I'm talking all the time to people, and sometimes I've really said it so many times I wonder if I'm coming off like a piece of tape recording, but I'm very proud to be an American. In 30 or 40 years, (the election) will not be considered so incredibly important. ... There will be other people in those next three or four decades who will run for the presidency -- some women, some native American, some Spanish-speaking, some Asian. We're about to grow up in this country. Our country needs us all right now to stand up and be counted. We need to try to be great citizens. We are necessary in this country, and we need to give something -- that is to say, go to a local hospital, go to the children's ward and offer to the nurse in charge an hour twice a month that you can give them reading children's stories or poetry. And go to an old folks' home and read the newspaper to somebody. Go to you church or your synagogue or your mosque, and say, 'I'd like to be of service. I have one hour twice a month. You'll be surprised at how much better you will feel. And good done anywhere is good done everywhere."
Preach on, Maya. May she “rise and rise” high up to the heavens. You will be sorely missed. R.I.P.
As news spread across the net this morning, several big-named celebs took to their social media platforms, expressing their condolences for the late poet essayist, and here’s a few shots gathered courtesy of AJC.com (via Huffington Post):
Queen Latifah: The world was a better place because Dr. Maya Angelou was in it. #RIPMaya
Mary J. Blige: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." - Maya Angelou.
MCHammer: You challenged the dark silence,Your words empowered & inspired, the determined human spirit could defeat all foes "Still I Rise" #RIPMAYA
Kristin Davis: Thank you for your beautiful words of wisdom and inspiration. They will live forever
Cory Booker: "If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be." #MayaAngelou : poet, author and activist, dead at 86
Ryan Seacrest: "I've learned that you shouldn't go thru life w/ a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back." -Maya Angelou
Beyoncé: Rest in peace phenomenal woman.
Lil Wayne: “I’ve learned that people will forget what u said,people will forget what u did,but people will never forget how u made them feel” Maya
Nas: Momentarily took the air out of me hearing you passed over. Then I smiled for you. REST IN GLORY MAYA ANGELOU. Luv!
Kelly Rowland: God, thank you for sharing your Angel with us! Her extraordinary gift encouraged many! You will remain in our hearts forever! #weloveyouMayaAngelou
Pharrell Williams: Saddened by the news of Maya Angelou’s passing. A brilliant woman who contributed so much to the world. Her light will be sorely missed.
Rihanna: Angel. #RIPMayaAngelou The first book I read as a teenager, “I know why the caged bird sings”. Felt like we knew her. She made us feel so safe, safe enough to trust her wisdom! Wisdom one can usually only acquire through experience! Thank You #MayaAngelou :’)
Common: I was thinking about her lately. GOD Bless the Soul of one of my heroes. Dr Maya Angelou