Today we have lost Maya Angelou, a profoundly talented and brilliant woman. I was lucky enough to have seen her speak a few years ago at Bergen Community College. When she came on stage a startling silence was followed by minutes of standing ovation. When she spoke, her voice commanded everyone’s respect. No cellphones rang, no chit-chat fluttered in the background; everyone was present and eager to listen to her read her work, to see her gargantuan spirit sitting calmly in front of them. She was wonderful and so full of wisdom. The auditorium had reached its capacity, but people wanted to stay and experience this legend, so they were allowed to stand behind the auditorium’s doors to hear voice reaching them through speakers.
Both men and women had tears in their eyes. Her spirit was soothing. There were children and teenagers, elderly folks who had grown with her, who had shared similar experiences and Maya Angelou’s novels and poetry told those stories and sought to explore and keep alive the stories of black people, especially of those wounded by the turbulent history of racism in the United States. Though the crowd was mixed, I was especially touched seeing both young and elderly black people sitting there with so much love in their eyes. In front of them was a woman who had dedicated her life to telling their story, their history, advocating for them. Maya Angelou was a woman who broke so many barriers allowing for generations of black people to be heard and represented. A Phenomenal Woman in every sense of the word.
I hope future writers maintain and build upon her level of greatness. I hope they choose to follow her propensity to reflect on human nature and love. For all we admire in her, there is so much we as writers can learn from her as well. She has taken a piece of my heart. May she rest in peace.