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Rise On, Ms. Maya Angelou!
”I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine before she realizes she’s reading.” Dr. Maya Angelou
Today, Wednesday, May, 28th 2014, many people awoke to the news of the passing of the incomparable and impassioned author, poet, and educator, Dr. Maya Angelou at the age of 86.
Her family’s statement read:
“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”
While most of us woke up glad that we had made it to “hump day” and some of us even wondered if we could make it through “hump day”, Dr. Angelou made it through more than hump days over the course of her life–she traversed mountainous obstacles while ascending to the apex of life, triumphantly.
From the ugliness of rape at 7 years old, to the peculiarity of being mute for 6 long years, and the social degradation of being a teen mother and madame in a brothel in later, barely adult years, Dr. Angelou managed to use words to evoke actions and ideas and feelings and places of beauty and strength and hope and courage and love.
I don’t find that I will have words as carefully crafted to describe this colossal wordsmith, but I would like to honor her life and the body of work she cultivated out of her sheer love of humanity.
Born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou walked among other giants in the human experience and the attainment of human rights: El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mrs. Rosa Parks, Mr. Harry Belafonte, and the recently departed, Madiba, Mr. Nelson Mandela.
When President Obama was elected, Dr. Angelou predicted that 30 or 40 years down the road, his presidency would not be so significant because other marginalized groups would hold the post, stating that Americans were “about to grow up in this country.” Furthermore, President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton acknowledged her contributions to our world by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2011), the Presidential Medal of Art (2000), and having her recite her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at the presidential inauguration in 1995, respectively.
Media mogul, Ms. Oprah Winfrey has referred to Dr. Angelou as her mentor, and from what the world witnesses from Ms. Winfrey, she has clearly been steered to greatness in her service to others due to Dr. Angleou’s grooming of her “heart full of grace’ and “a soul generated by love.”
Today the world mourns the loss of such a towering, powerful, and compassionate woman. And, we offer hearty laughs and big smiles as we rejoice at a life well lived.
Rise on, Dr. Angelou!
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like tear drops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Jay-Z and The Lesson
The New York Post is under heat…again! This time is no different than all of the last times; racism as a practice of journalism is always the accusation, and from what I have witnessed, the accusation has always been right (I’ll be honest—when the Post printed that heinous cartoon insinuating President Obama was a crazed chimpanzee being shot down by the hands of the police, their fate was sealed for me—they wouldn’t be getting my readership. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/18/new-york-post-chimp-carto_n_167841.html).
This time around sports writer Phil Mushnick rhetorically asks, “Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N——s? The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B—-hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath. Wanna be Jay-Z hip? Then go all the way! “ in reference to the fact that the newly honed Brooklyn Nets has a new logo, new jersey colors and they were all crafted and heavily influenced by its minority owner, Jay-Z.
Arguably and obviously, this is not the best choice of words and Phil Mushnick should really work on wrangling this type of emotional manipulation so that it does not continue to spew from his laptop, further jeopardizing his journalistic integrity—if there is any left to salvage. But, the real issue here is not the racism that can be printed on the pages of the New York Post under the protection of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and the right of the press, it’s the blinders that the rest of us have placed over our eyes towards Jay-Z and the vicious way in which he continues, with his celebrity, to solidify the Black man’s identity around the world as the ‘N’ word.
From your musical catalog, I’ve ridden with you through the streets of Brooklyn, learned the ins and outs of the drug trade, learned how I should treat my friends and “frenimies”, and I definitely understand the bottom line you’ve taught that the acquisition of money is all that matters in this life. I may not agree, but I get your lesson. Now get mine.
On September 24th, 2009 you appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. You discussed a cadre of milestones, but the most sensitive topic had nothing to do with your relationship with your father, post- Rihanna beating advice, or your rough upbringing in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects. The tension came when the infamous ‘N’ word was debated; and, you refused to abdicate it from your word arsenal and Ms. Oprah refused to accept this word as the nouveau endearment moniker you had described it to be. Realizing that you were not going to change your tune, the decision was reached to “agree to disagree” by Ms. Oprah. I was let down because I had figured you were going onto the Oprah Show to garner new fans and to show the world better about Hip Hop, to make your message more far-reaching, but more importantly to learn the “code” of billionaires and resilience, especially Black billionaires, since this is the path you’re on and the status you’re chasing. Ms. Oprah tried to clue you in, but your Culturally Relevant Aptitude couldn’t figure it out and that’s just “CRAy.”
Jay-Z, even if your wife never rendered a word about your intelligence in her million songs dedicated to you, we all know you’re smart; don’t think for one minute that your intelligence has ever been questioned. But, what is being called into question is your sense of judgment. On your latest project, Watch the Throne with Kanye West, you both consciously labeled one of your tracks, “N—as in Paris.” As two of the most influential men of the 21st Century this is the best you can do? Well thanks to you, French presidential hopeful Francois Hollande now has your theme song to help him capture the Black vote and that of the disenfranchised Parisians that Sarkozy can’t seem to embrace. Insulting! Do you think for one minute President Obama would have ever used “Jigga my N—a” as your walking music down the many red carpet White House appearances you’ve made? Absolutely not!
It’s time for you to get the lesson. As long as you reduce who you are to a racial epithet you will never feel comfortable at the table with Warren Buffet and his friends and you’re going to always feel you have more to prove. Take the pressure off. Get it?