By Portia Williams
Seated at my desk in The Portsmouth Daily Times newsroom, my attention was turned to the television, where I beheld a series of images of Maya Angelou. I surmised by the continuity of the scenes from Angelou’s life, that it could mean only one thing. Sadly enough, as I moved away from the desk, and over to the television, it was confirmed when I saw her birth and death date upon the television screen, the beloved Marguerite Annie Johnson, whom we’ve come to know as Maya Angelou was dead at age 86. As many people around the world, my heart sank at the news, and I was deeply saddened by the revelation of Angelou’s passing. For me personally, Maya Angelou was not just an author, or poet, or playwright, but a role model, and literary icon. She was one of my inspirations for writing my first poetry book, as I grew up adoring her poetry, and had the honor of meeting her as a child. From her distinct, deep, yet feminine voice, enunciating words with such an expression that even if you did not see her face, yet heard her voice, you knew without a doubt that it was Maya Angelou.
Undeniably, Angelou made an indelible mark upon the world. When the news of her passing was disseminated, social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter became saturated with posts and tweets of well-wishes and expressions of how she touched their lives. She was hailed as a global renaissance woman, was a poet, author, educator, producer, actress, historian, and filmmaker. Angelou was also a civil rights activist, and worked with Civil Rights Movement leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. This host of accomplishments and the perfection of her artistry did not come easy, rising from a very troubled childhood, dealing with rape, and an early pregnancy, she surmounted many obstacles. Perhaps it was the fact that she did not let her past define her, is what made her so great, as it incites hope in the hearts of others that observe her life. Her books, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,’ and ‘And Still I Rise,’ gave her international acclaim, are among the 30 best-selling titles that she achieved. Her delivery of, ‘On the Pulse of Morning,’ the poem she wrote for the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993 was simply amazing, and will always be remembered.
At the end of the day, I suspect that it will not be her international travels in Europe with the opera, ‘Porgy and Bess,’ or her work as an editor in a newspaper in Cairo Egypt, or her three Grammy awards, or 50 honorary doctoral degrees, any of her other achievements that we will remember most about the life of Dr. Maya Angelou. Consequently, it will be her authenticity, her resilience, her strength, faith, and words of wisdom that she so generously shared with the world that classify her as a ray of hope which illuminated the world. Allow me to conclude with Dr. Angelou’s very last tweet from her official Twitter page which was tweeted on May 23, 2014: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
Portia Williams can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 286.