Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thank You, Dr. Angelou

Maya Angelou, February 2012.  Image courtesy of
Editor's Note:  The renowned Dr. Maya Angelou--poet, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil rights activist, producer, director, recipient of 71 honorary doctorates, and above all else, teacher--has died.  The TWU community had the privilege of welcoming Dr. Angelou to the Denton campus in 2012; the following post is reprinted in her honor.

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body

Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world 
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

From A Brave and Startling Truth by Maya Angelou
Written and delivered in honor of the 50th 
anniversary of the United Nations

There are certain events at which those in attendance are acutely aware they're seeing and hearing something special.  This seemed to be the case on March 27th, 2012 in the Margo Jones Performance Hall on the Denton campus of TWU.  Those who helped pack the auditorium from 11 a.m. to noon that day were treated to an hour with the renowned Dr. Maya Angelou--poet, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil rights activist, producer, director, recipient of 71 honorary doctorates, and above all else, teacher. "I thought I was a writer who can teach", Dr. Angelou shared, "but it turns out I'm a teacher who can write."

For sixty sparkling minutes Dr. Angelou invited the audience to share glimpses--punctuated by poetry, dancing, life lessons, humor and song--of her extraordinary life.

The centerpiece of that life?  Poetry.  Initially a coping mechanism during a difficult period, poetry was a lifeline to Dr. Angelou--then a lifestyle. "It put rainbows in my clouds," she said. "Everyone should memorize some poetry to protect yourself--you'll then be in a position to protect others."  Further extolling the virtues of poetry, Dr. Angelou reminded the audience that there is real humor in some of it--and that "we need to have things in our lives which remind us that things will be better in the morning, and that we are of value."  Poetry did this for her, and she encouraged everyone to tap into poetry's power. "Find poetry," she said. "Maybe (Algernon Charles) Swinburne, Sonia Sanchez . . . or Maya Angelou."

Interspersed with favorite passages committed to memory--from The Health-Food Diner by Maya Angelou; Little Brown Baby and Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar; Invictus by William Ernest Henley; Harlem Sweeties by Langston Hughes; Concientious Objector by Edna St. Vincent Millay; and The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe--Dr. Angelou's talk centered on poetry as a path to dignity, empowerment, self-respect and respect for others. 

A good teacher, indeed.

Thank you, Dr. Angelou.

For more on and by Dr. Maya Angelou, TWU Reference Librarian Jimmie Lyn Harris compiled a bibliography of resources available through TWU Libraries, and with TWU Reference Librarian Stephany Compton put together a list of websites touching on Dr. Angelou's life and work


~Sandy Cochran

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