Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou

“The free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wings in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky…The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill, for the caged bird sings of freedom.” (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings-Maya Angelou)


Once in a blue moon, there evolves such an extraordinary being, who leaves a mark within society that long after they are gone from this earth, remnants of their essence is still very evident like the smell of grandmother’s cooking after the food is eaten and the dishes are put away…still lingering. The most outstanding evidence that a person exudes unparalleled characteristics is when their very presence is so sensational it puts you on a natural high, and you are inspired by every word they say to the point that it compels you to react with new-found energy. Dr. Maya Angelou does that in life as a mother of wisdom with substantial creativity.

Born 40 years to the date of the assassination of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., in St. Louis, Missouri, she was predestined to walk in pathways that only the strong could survive. Being from the “Show Me State,” Dr. Maya Angelou was destined to “reveal the unseen to blinded eyes” through the windows of her soul. She has an uncanny ability to transform not only the minds of others, but inspire them to see something in her that sparks creativity like the story of how her birth name changed from Marguerite Ann Johnson to Maya Angelou. Her brother nicknamed her Maya, short for “My” or “Mya Sister.” Some reports say he read a book about Mayan Indians and selected her name from it because his stutter would not allow him to pronounce her birth name. Her last name came from her marriage to Greek sailor Anastasios Angelopulos, and when her career as a night club singer began, she took on the professional name of Maya Angelou which is a combination of her childhood nickname and a form of her husband’s name.

Dr. Angelou’s credits include a remarkable hue of wondrous accomplishments that include phenomenal writing skills, civil rights activist, dancer, author, playwright and philanthropist.  She achieved national overnight fame and international recognition for her many works of autobiographical narratives. One of the most famous was based on her early childhood entitled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Dr. Maya Angelou became well sought after by universities who were enthralled by her way of expressing issues that women faced and more so, what she endured. Her screenplay Georgia, Georgia (1972) gained her a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the screenplay and score of the film. This made her the first African American woman to get this nomination. She read a poem at President Clinton’s inauguration, On the Pulse in the Morning, broadcast live in 1993, making her the first poet since Robert Frost at inauguration. She has over 50 honorary doctorate degrees, served on two presidential committees, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts, the Lincoln Medal and Grammy Awards. She has worked with Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., Malcolm X, and more for peace efforts.

Forsyth Medical Center asked about naming their health center after her and she agreed. The Center is the region’s first ever comprehensive healthcare and wellness program that meets the needs of women of all ages. She has acknowledged that health disparities among women are issues close to her heart. About to turn 86 next month, her words still have an impact today. She tells women to take charge of their own health and begin with telling their partners if they do not use protection, they will not have sex, because it is playing with their lives.

The power behind her amazing ability to MOTIVATE lies within her own story. She shared at the Women 2 Women Inaugural Conference in Atlanta, sponsored by Sonjia W. Young on March 1, 2014, about the maternal role as she knew it, My grandmother saved my life, often, I can’t say how many times. At one time in my life I was raped and I told the name of the rapist, although the man said if I told, he would kill my brother and my brother was my heart and he was two years older than I. Later we were told that the man had been found dead, he’d been kicked to death. As a result, I thought my voice was the cause so I stopped speaking. I thought my voice had just fle out the door. For about five years she didn’t speak. She elaborated that while her grandmother was doing her hair, she encouraged her not to pay attention to what people were saying about her being mute, that she had a voice and one day she would share it with the world. “You may write me down in history, with your bitter, twisted lies, you may tread me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise…You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise.” (Still I Rise-Maya Angelou)
Dr. Maya Angelou is a descendent of the Mende people of West Africa, and her grandmother, who was emancipated after the Civil War, became pregnant by her former slave master but was forced to deny he was the father, leaving her mentally scarred. Her endurance was a trait passed down to Dr. Angelou to continue the legacy of the strength of a woman. In her continuation of “empowering” others, she told the conference participants, It’s time to stop mistreating yourself by indulging fear. When you are mistreating yourself you cause someone else to mistreat you. You have to say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m a child of God, wait a minute. I didn’t make myself, and you surely didn’t make me.’ Continue to encourage yourself to develop courage. It is the most important of all the virtues. And don’t let the children know you fear. When they see you fear, then they become fearful. So my brothers, my sisters, my darlings please remember who you are. Remember whose you are…and that will give you the power and courage to tell fear to go running like hell and out of thine.-Maya Angelou

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