As a young girl growing up I was always intrigued and inspired by the power of words and their meanings when I would read books by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor and Maya Angelou. My mother who instilled in us very young how reading was not only very important, but necessary. When I read “I know Why A Caged Bird Sings” by Dr. Maya Angelou, I was hooked ever since. It was as if I was sitting right there in the room listening to her read the book to me. In my mind, she was one of my Aunts reading to me. I hung onto every word, every meaning, every sentence. From that point on, I would read as much of her literary work as I could.
The first time I heard her speak out loud was when I along with millions of other viewers watched the television network premier of ROOTS. She was Kunta Kinte’s grandmother, Yaisa, and when she spoke, although she was acting, she still spoke and sounded just like her books. She owned that role with so much depth, strength and conviction in her voice. You felt as if she was your grandmother too. Anything Maya Angelou did from that point on, inspired me like no other.
As a mother, it’s important for me to teach my children about our history as my mother did with me and my siblings. Our past is such an important key to our culture, to our identity as who we are, our future and our children’s future. There was a time in my life when I was going through something personal and I watched a segment of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday with Maya Angelou, and she said something that sent chills through my spine. It was an interview about her book, “Mom and Me” when she said, “God loves me.” She repeated it several times because she was remembering how her mentor the late Frederick Wilkerson, he made her repeat that line from a book several times to herself. It was the way she said it when she spoke to Oprah that she gave magic to those words. She made them come to life. That’s who she was, and its what she always represented.
In the summer of 2016, I went back home to NY to celebrate my son’s 16th Birthday. Something inside me said I should head to Harlem. I don’t know why, I just did. At this time I was at the beginning stages of studying photography and on Saturday, August 27th I found myself in Harlem sitting on the stoop of Dr. Maya Angelou’s brownstone. It was as if I found a long lost family member. I sat there for what seemed to be eternity. I can’t explain the feeling, I just know what I felt that day and it was profound. I lived in Westchester County all my life and to think that all this history was within reach was unbelievable to me. Tho late, Im glad I got a glimpse of it.
Recently, while browsing my newsfeed on Instagram, I noticed that the documentary of Maya Angelou, “And Still I Rise” screening was being shown in several states. I went online to the website (www.mayaangeloufilm.com) and saw that the closest screening to me was at the Barn Hill Rose Arts Center in Berryville, Virginia which was still about an hour and a half away from me but the distance didn’t matter to me, I was going! Not only was I going, but I planned for my mother to come from New York and attend with me and my daughter. I am so glad we did!
First let me say that the arts center, Barn Hill Rose, was a perfect setting to showcase the documentary. As we got to our seats, I saw the look on my daughter’s face as the excitement started to set in. I am very proud to say, she stayed awake for the whole screening and asked a few questions but she loved it! Here is my favorite Author and Poet that inspired me as a child now inspiring my daughter. It was such a humbling experience to witness not only my daughter, but to have witnessed it with my mom as well. Three generations viewing “And Still I Rise.” How powerful is that! Maya Angelou documentary, “And Still I Rise” was everything. It was moving, uplifting, unsettling, educational and motivational at the same time. She was a force to be reckoned with and her voice in which the manner and tone she spoke, will always be like no other of our lifetime.
The best part, to me, was the influence it had on my daughter. That to me was worth the trip. So in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou herself… “When you learn, you teach. When you get you give.”
Thank You Dr. Maya Angelou for your courage to tell your story and for still inspiring generations after generations.
Please make sure you tune in on February 21st for the broadcast of this phenomenal story of our beloved, Dr. Maya Angelou! To learn more about the documentary, click the picture.