Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fare Thee Well Ms. Angelou



I grew up on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In the 80's, in my family and friends circle, Maya Angelou was not a familiar name. However in my house, after I saw this episode of A Different World, Maya transformed into my favorite author. These were the days before DVR where you actually had to watch an episode at its scheduled time. Well, I take that back. If you had a VCR or Betamax, you could certainly program it to record your favorite shows. Of course, video cassettes only lasted 2-4 hours and if you had the most recent model, you could probably even get up to 6 hours of video play.

This episode centers around a college classroom where they are practicing Public Speaking. Their assignment is to give their own eulogy. Right at about 11:45 into the episode, Josie gets up and she talks about her aunt giving her a book "that changed her life" and it was a volume of Maya Angelou poems. Josie mentions "Still I Rise" being the one poem that made her want to be a poet. Just the title, "Still I Rise," made this Pacific Island girl so curious about this poet, Maya Angelou.

I was probably in the tenth grade when this episode aired. The internet was a couple of years away. Google was at least a decade away, which meant the research to find Maya Angelou had to be done at a bookstore or the public library. I think the public library was just moving to a LINUX type database. The mouse and the operating system that required the mouse was probably in its infancy at this point. We had to use the regular card catalog where everything was arranged by the Dewey Decimal system. Libraries still use the Dewey Decimal system but it's so much easier to search a database by using keywords rather than trying to find it by topic. Now, I can search, order, and reserve stuff at the public library from my SmartPhone. I use it liberally. I can download audiobooks to my phone and kindle books. Technology is amazing but I relish my childhood experiences in the library. Times have surely changed.

Whenever I went to the mall with my parents, I headed straight to Waldenbooks. It was located where PacSun is currently located. If you looked out the bookstore and across the common areas, McDonalds was on the right and Tilt arcade was on the left. I had no desire to be at the arcade, I was much more comfortable browsing the aisles of Waldenbooks.

On the weekend after watching this episode, I had one mission alone and it was to find a Maya Angelou book. The only book they had from her was in the young adult section, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was a paperback and I begged my parents to buy it for me. Having what I think was a perfect childhood, my world was shattered when I read that book. The heart break, the pain, the heaviness of what she wrote only made me more in love with her words. How she conveyed so much emotion with words is still so very magical to me. My freshmen year in college, all my ENGLISH 101 essays were inspired by her poetry. Caged Bird was definitely my favorite back then.

I honor you dear Maya. I pray that in another lifetime our paths will cross and we will exchange beautiful poetry. All it took was a short thirty second blurb on a TV show to turn me into a fanatic. Thank you for your magic. It has truly inspired me. While others are familiar with your popular works:
Alone
Still I Rise
Phenomenal Woman
On the Pulse of Morning

I, on the other hand, in my fiery young adulthood was always a fan of To A Husband. Farewell Ms. Angelou. I pray your new birth is as magnificent as this one has been. May your words transcend time. Fare thee well.


To A Husband

Your voice at times a fist
          Tight in your throat
Jabs ceaselessly at phantoms
          In the room,
Your hand a carved and
          Skimming boat
Goes down the Nile
          To point out Pharaoh's tomb

You're Africa to me
          At brightest dawn.
The Congo's green and
          Copper's brackish hue,
A continent to build
          With Black Man's brawn.
I sit at home and see it all
          Through you.

No comments: