“To fully celebrate the life and legacy of Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928–May 28, 2014), we must contextualize her 86 years of living within the black religious traditions that influenced her and birthed her deep spirituality.” So begins an interesting article on the blog Then & Now, by Yolanda Pierce in Christian Century, an article that adds the religious dimension to the remembrances of the great poet.
Angelou’s Christian faith underlay much of her work and the values she infused into it. Through her own struggles, which were many she learned what was “perhaps the spiritual virtue Angelou held most dear…a powerful celebration of knowing and loving the self.”
The post also asks what voices are we failing to hear because, like Angelou’s, they are the voices of those we marginalized and ignore.
Her life story provokes a question: what powerful art, poetry, music, literature, and political activism are we missing when we ignore the discarded and the outcast? Angelou the former sex worker, teen mother, and stripper is the same Angelou who dined with presidents, taught at the nation’s most prestigious schools, and received this country’s highest honors and accolades. We do not have to sanitize her story because it is one of strength, honor, and dignity. We honor Angelou’s legacy by listening to and loving those we far too often ignore and silence.