Saturday, 31 August 2013

Maya Angelou


Before this blog post I could not tell anyone much about Maya Angelou. I thought she was a poet who was best friends with Oprah Winfrey. Little did I know there was more to this African American woman than her poems and her friendships with leading women.

Cole Haan's new advertising campaign features people born in 1928, the same year the company was founded in Chicago
Angelou was born in St. Louis Missouri, on April 4, 1928. During her childhood she lived through the great depression and endured sexual abuse from her mother's boyfriend. Her mother's boyfriend, Mr. Freeman was found guilty and jailed for one day, after his release he was killed. It is suspected, Maya Angelou's uncles killed him. Angelou became a mute after his murder.

"I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone ..." - Maya Angelou

After the murder of Mr. Freeman, Angelou moved in with her grandmother and met the women who would introduce her to literature. Mrs. Bertha Flowers was a friend of the family and helped Angelou to speak again.

The one thing I did not know about Maya is that she was a performer before she was an author. During the World War II she attended George Washington High School while studying dance and drama on a scholarship at the California Labor School.

After her first marriage to Enistasious (Tosh) Angelos ended in 1954 she danced and sang calypso music professionally at The Purple Onion which also hosted Woody Allen. In 1957 she also released her first album, Miss Calypso. Angelou also appeared in an off-Broadway review which eventually inspired the film Calypso Heat Wave.

In 1959 Angelou met novelist, James O. Killens who would inspire her to move to New York and start her literature career. She left Marguerite Johnson (her stage name) behind and joined Harlem Writer's Guild.

In 1961 she met South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make. Together they moved to Cairo where she became an associate editor at the weekly English-language newspaper The Arab Observer.

In 1968 Angelou wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. The autobiography touches on her childhood and the racism she encountered. The autobiography starts from when she was three years old up until she was 17 years old.
She cleverly uses rape as a metaphor to describe the racism she encountered. Another metaphor she uses is that of a bird struggling to escape its cage, a chained slave. The title of the book comes from a poem by African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Caged Bird was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970 and was listed on The New York Times paperback bestseller list for two years.

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –

I know why the caged bird sings. the third stanza from Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem Sympathy which inspired the title of Angelou's first autobiography.

Photographed by Taylor Jewell
Georgina, Georgina was the first screenplay written by a black woman. Maya also wrote the soundtrack for the film.

Even with all her trials and tribulations, Angelou managed to become very successful in her field. One might say that her troubles are what made her successful. Before I wrote this post I was in the dark about Angelou's past, present and future.

She has written seven autobiographies and the latest one was released this year, Mom & Me & Me. Not only is she a novelist, but she is also a screenplay writer, poet, singer and actress.

Read The Famous Females in Film And Television Blog Post

In this day and age where women can be whatever and whoever they wish, Maya Angelou is the perfect role model. In the past women were limited to one job and one career but Maya decided she was going to become whatever she wanted to.

As a young female still trying to find her feet in this world I have decided that I will no longer limit myself to one career choice and neither should other women. Changing and chopping career choices may even the best thing women can do for themselves.

The great joy of living in the world we live in now is that we can have any job title, we can even make up our own titles.

Before I became a blogger, I never thought that was writing was part of my future. Now that I have done my research on Maya Angelou, I have realised that I could become a writer or even a screenplay writer.

Read The Iconic And Influential Women in Film And Television Blog Post

You may not be interested in literature but that doesn't mean you can't learn from Angelou. Many women have to go through various struggles before they become great but that doesn't stop them from becoming great.

Never let your struggle hold you back and if you ever think it does, remember Maya Angelou and her struggles and how she became an icon for America and women all over the world.
Photographed by Taylor Jewell
"I’m grateful to intelligent people,” Angelou says discreetly of their relationship. “That doesn’t mean educated. That doesn’t mean intellectual. I mean really intelligent. What black old people used to call ‘mother wit’ means intelligence that you had in your mother’s womb. That’s what you rely on. You know what’s right to do.” 
- Maya Angelou on her relationship with Oprah Winfrey for American Vogue by by Thessaly La Force

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