Legendary poet, actress, civil rights activist and professor, Dr. Maya Angelou has passed away today, at the age of 86. She was a giant in the literary and academic fields, having written numerous plays, books and essays. Dr. Angelou has received scholarships, awards, accolades and worldwide recognition. As a multi-faceted genius, her track record is mind boggling, so I will focus on just a tiny portion of her brilliance.
This Renaissance woman was a critically acclaimed singer, songwriter and maverick. After studying dance with Trinidadian Pearl Primus in New York, she embarked on a professional career singing calypso music and dancing in San Francisco nightclubs. Her first album, “Miss Calypso” was recorded in 1957.
I first became familiarized with Dr. Angelou one summer after reading, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” This was her first published autobiography, and a very successful one at that. It changed my life. Her harrowing account of childhood trauma was shocking yet revealing. I was immensely touched by her bravery, courage and determination to succeed no matter what happened. Few women had such brazen resolve. She took full responsibility for her life and in so doing, liberated herself from limitation.
The impact of her genius has extended even to dance music. Millions have been mesmerized by the vocal sample on “Horizons” by LTJ Bukem. The sassy, wise voice of Dr. Angelou announces, “Each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings….the horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.” This sample was taken from her recital, “On The Pulse of Morning” at former president Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. These words speak of being in the present’ realizing we have the power to shape our destinies at any given moment according to what we choose. It’s a philosophy I have come to embrace. Thank you, Dr. Angelou – may you continue to expand your horizons. There are no limits.
Dr. Maya Angelou image source: http://www.achievement.org
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