Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dr. Maya Angelou

Last night, Dr. Maya Angelou spoke at the Palace Theater in Albany. Of course, I was in attendance, especially because my Literature of the Oppressed class is currently in the middle of an African American literature unit. It couldn't have fallen more perfectly.

Angelou is an amazing story-telling and speaker, but I guess one would have to be if one was a best-selling author and popular novelist. The way that she portrays people in speech is so fine-tuned, so right on; I felt like I could see, know, and understand the people she was describing when she spoke about them. She could even impersonate dialogue well too!

Even though she is aging, she still could captivate an audience by sitting down in a chair. I don't think I could be that interesting by just sitting in a chair on a giant stage. Impressive quality.

Angelou repeatedly sung this one refrain at various durations during her performance. It was a chorus of "rainbows in the clouds," an optismistic way to look at life. She did offer much advice to the crowd; she taught the crowd that everyone is paid for, and we should pay it forward to someone because you never know how greatly that one act of kindness will have on that person. She was greatly influenced by her Uncle Willie who taught her to love to learn as well as her teacher Mrs. Flowers who supplied her books that inspired her to love literature. She said something along the lines of, "She had no idea who I would become," and that really struck me. You never know who anyone is going to become. You never know the influence you hold over others. Why not perform random acts of kindness then for all, for we never know who anyone will ever become.

What I did not know about Dr. Angelou was that she speaks about four different languages and teaches in some of them. She has many doctorates (how does she do it!?) and is a professor at Wake Forest University. I would LOVE to have her as a professor! AND, what most astonished me, was the fact that she has so many poems memorized! She recited two Paul Laurence Dunbar poems and one Shakespeare poem, not to mention some of her own. I can't even remember what I said yesterday, let alone reciting a poem verbatim. Again, impressive.

Her stories were so moving that she was brought to tears. She has this powerful persona that draws you to her words. Also, she told hilarious stories of being mobbed by fans. I could imagine that she would be, but it's funny to hear her talk about people shoving babies in her arms, pilots speaking with her as the plane starts its flight, people poking her and yelling at her in the airport. So now she doesn't fly. I don't blame her.

Angelou concluded with the poem she wrote for the United Nations, a powerfully long poem that meant so much to her. Her words inspire me to want to create and respond to the world. One can have many professions, as does she. Overall, she is extraordinarily inspiring.

What are our thoughts on Dr. Maya Angelou? Has anyone read any of her works and poems? I have only have the joy to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and a couple poems. What should I read? Has anyone seen her speak? How was she?

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