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Maya Angelou: The passing of a great lady

According to CNN News publicized yesterday, May 28, 2014 and updated today, The great lady Maya Angelou passed away in her home on May 28, 2014. She not only mentored Oprah Winfrey she mentored a generation of young beautiful black women through the civil rights movement of the 1960s then went on to mentor all women of modern day America and Canada alike.

Maya Angelou
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Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Maya Angelou had a very interesting life living through times of much pain and moments of passion and great success. The author and poet in her spoke of these times. Her famous book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), spoke much of her life and the trials and tribulations that she had gone through. This book is still found in schoolrooms and libraries all over the world.

Raped and voiceless

Maya Angelou was raped at seven years old by her mother’s boyfriend. She stopped talking for five years because she told who raped her and that man who only served one day in jail was found murdered four days after his release.

She held herself responsible for his death because she spoke his name. Maya thought she wouldn’t speak for the rest of her life because “her voice killed people.” From this terrible experience for any young child to have to go through, Maya found her love for literature and developed the ability to listen and learn, the skills that would one day would bring her international fame and speak to millions of women around the world.

Loving personality

Maya Angelou ever so giving and thoughtful of others credits her teacher and friend Bertha Flowers for helping get back her voice. The voice that one day would move millions with her poetry and her wisdom.

Teenage years and early adulthood

As Maya Angelou grew to her teen years and beyond she had many jobs in her lifetime. After graduating from California Labor school, Maya Angelou became the first female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. It was only three weeks after graduation that Maya Angelou gave birth to her son. She named him Clyde but he later changed his name to Guy Johnson.

“Angelou's second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name (1974), recounts her life from age 17 to 19 and "depicts a single mother's slide down the social ladder into poverty and crime."[21] Angelou worked as "the front woman/business manager for prostitutes,"[22] restaurant cook, and prostitute. She moved through a series of relationships, occupations, and cities as she attempted to raise her son without job training or advanced education.[23]

Breaking social taboos and dancing

Maya Angelou loved people; it didn’t matter what race or color they were. She defied her mother and society at large by marrying a Greek by the name of Tosh Angelos. He was a sailor among other things and young musician.

During this period in her life Maya Angelou became interesting in dance. She took classes and started a dance team with Ruth Beckford who would later go on to establish the first recreational modern dance department in the United States at the Oakland Department of Parks and Recreation that same year. In 1950, she helped found the Oakland Dance Association. Unfortunately, the dance team of Maya Angelou and Rita were not that successful.

By 1954 Maya Angelou was singing and dancing professionally at the the Purple Onion and other nightclubs in San Francisco. It was at this time that Marguerite Johnson professionally changed her name to Maya Angelou. She also divorced her husband at the time as well. Maya Angelou’s style of music was largely Calypso. She recorded her first album called Miss Calypso in 1957 and it was reissued on CD in 1966. She also appeared in an off-Broadway production and starred in Calypso Heat Wave where she sang and danced. Maya Angela moved to New York to join the Harlem Writers Guild where the seeds of her writing would germinate.

The 1960’s

It was at this time that Maya Angelou meet Martin Luther King Jr, and began fundraising for the civil rights movement. She was named the coordinator and she used her skills as a singer and dancer to put on a benefit show Cabaret for Freedom for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Maya Angelou }also began her pro-Castro and anti-apartheid activism during this time.”

In 1961 Maya Angelou and South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make; began a relationship together. She moved to Cairo with her son to be with him. The following year their relationship ended but she choose to remain in Egypt. Her son went to university in Ghana.

Maya Angelou moved to Ghana where her son had a serious car accident. She became an administrator at the University of Ghana in 1962. She was also part of the African-American expatriate community. It was during her time in Africa that she met and befriended Malcolm X. She returned to the States in 1965 to “to help him build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward.”

Martin Luther King Jr. asked Maya Angelou to organize a march; she agreed, but postponed it. Unfortunately, he died before she was able to honor his request. This left Maya Angelou heartbroken and devastated. She wrote her first autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, coming out of this dark period in her life.

“In the next ten years, as Gillespie has stated, "She had accomplished more than many artists hope to achieve in a lifetime".[57] She worked as a composer, writing for singer Roberta Flack, and composing movie scores. She wrote articles, short stories, TV scripts, documentaries, autobiographies, and poetry, produced plays, and was named visiting professor at several colleges and universities. She was "a reluctant actor",[58] and was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her role in Look Away. In 1977, Angelou appeared in a supporting role in the television miniseries Roots. She was given a multitude of awards during this period, including over thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world.[59]

Many of us remember when Maya was invited to read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, becoming the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.[65

Maya Angelou was still campaigning for Hillary Clinton at the age of 82 in 2010/ She was still publishing last year when she produced in seventh autobiography when she was 85 years old.

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