Maya Angelou, whose words over the years have casted a much needed light on the injustices and paralleled beauty of the world, has died at the age of 86.
A statement issued by Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where the iconic author served as a professor of American Studies since 1982, confirmed the unfortunate news. Her son Guy B Johnson echoed confirmation of her death during a public statement.
“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist, and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance, peace. The family is appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”
Angelou’s initial years had humble beginnings. She spent her time studying dance and drama in San Francisco and eventually dropped out at the age of 14. During that time, she positioned herself to become the city’s first African-American female car conductor and returned to high school shortly thereafter.
At the age of 17, single with a son, she waited tables, and through it all developed a personal passion for music and dance. She would later tour throughout the mid-1950s in an opera production of Porgy and Bess. A few years later, it was 1957 when she recorded her first album, Miss Calypso.
Constantly defying what was expected of a person of her race and gender, she would later in her years be referred to as Dr. Maya Angelou, despite never having gone to college for the respected title of professor.
With over a dozen honorary degrees under her belt, her aptitude for education over her long life was compelling, but when it came to writing, it was a childhood tragedy that birthed her love for the word.
At age 7, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was later beaten to death by a mob, after she testified against him in court.
“I had stopped talking,” she wrote in her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. “I walked into rooms where people were laughing, their voices hitting the walls like stones, and I simply stood still – in the midst of a riot of sound. After a minute or two, silence would rush into the room from its hiding place because I had eaten up all the sounds.”
Through it all, Angelou became known as a woman who pushed through the societal and racial barriers that restricted her over the years, becoming the first black woman who generated a success as a writer. She is remembered as a woman who often expressed her view of humanity with words that combined reason with distinct grace.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Urbanology Magazine would like to send its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Maya Angelou whose words will continue to inspire the inner poets and writers in us all.