At age 86, the African-American icon, poet, author, and activist, Maya Angelou has passed away.
I am a Woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal Woman, that’s me.
That was Maya Angelou.
She was born in St. Louis, Missouri on the fourth day of April in the year 1928. Her given name was Marguerite Annie Johnson. In her 86 years, there was no stone left un-turned. She was a writer, dancer, singer, actress, and the first African-American female director in Hollywood. She was an active participant in the Civil Rights movement, working with both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. At the 1993 inauguration of Bill Clinton, she recited her poem, ”On the Pulse of Morning” to the nation. She was a Grammy winner, not once but three times; She was nominated for a Pulitzer prize in 1971 for “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie”; In 1973 she was nominated for a Tony for her role in the play “Look Away” and an Emmy for her role in the television mini-series “Roots.” In 2000 she was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and in 2011 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Maya Angelou’s On the Pulse of MorningA Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed, Marked the mastodon, The dinosaur, who left dried tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages. But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow. I will give you no hiding place down here. You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness Have lain too long Face down in ignorance. Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter. The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me, But do not hide your face. Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song. It says, Come, rest here by my side. Each of you, a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege. Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast. Yet today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more. Come, Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the rock were one. Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing. The River sang and sings on. There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock. So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African, the Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher. They hear. They all hear The speaking of the Tree. They hear the first and last of every Tree Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River. Plant yourself beside the River. Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for. You, who gave me my first name, you, Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, Left me to the employment of Other seekers—desperate for gain, Starving for gold. You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot, You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought, Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare Praying for a dream. Here, root yourselves beside me. I am that Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved. I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours—your passages have been paid. Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain Cannot be unlived, but if faced With courage, need not be lived again. Lift up your eyes upon This day breaking for you. Give birth again To the dream. Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands, Mold it into the shape of your most Private need. Sculpt it into The image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For a new beginning. Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness. The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out and upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country. No less to Midas than the mendicant. No less to you now than the mastodon then. Here, on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister’s eyes, and into Your brother’s face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope— Good morning.