Editorial: Powerful teacher blessed us

May. 29, 2014 @ 11:12 PM

Maya Angelou found her voice, shared it with millions and taught the world love, inspiration and resilience.

Angelou was born in 1920s St. Louis, raised in Arkansas, delivered impact in the civil rights movement and eventually joined the American studies department at Wake Forest University in 1981. Described with several occupations, she will long be remembered for the passion and teaching of her writing. She died Wednesday.

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was a landmark writing in 1969. The piece was autobiographical with aspects she recognized as fictional. But it told a story, her story, and that of millions more.

We cringe when envisioning images of her source of courage. She was raped at 8 by her mother’s boyfriend. He was subsequently beaten to death. Frightened by the power of her voice, she didn’t speak for five years.

She evolved into a woman of the arts and literature, talented in dance, song and poetry. Her life was rough, with accounts of drugs, prostitution and strip club dancing.

She channeled the hard times, and her knowledge, into assisting us all. Racism and rape, family and literacy, are all part of “Caged Bird” and the other books that made up her memoirs. She set herself apart from other black women writers of her era, and she did so without politics.

“Above all, she was a storyteller — and her greatest stories were true,” said President Barack Obama. “A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking — but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves.

“With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children, that we all have something to offer.”

Her touch to so many lives wasn’t because of her association with presidents and prominent citizens, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was her association with us, each of us, as we sort through our adversities.

She was and remains an inspiration in resilience, testament to what is right and taught by God our creator. Maya Angelou’s impact on our world is a blessing. And for that, we give thanks.