“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
Thankfully I have Memories
For 37 years, I averaged a story a day when I was writing for newspapers. Some of those stories I kept in a scrapbook. And of all the stories I wrote about people, this is my favorite.
During my journalism career, I met three presidents (Nixon, Ford and Reagan) and wrote about them. Today, I don’t remember what their stories were about. But I do remember the story I wrote about Maya Angelou when she spoke at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.
I felt blessed to have had an hour alone with her before her speech, an hour in which she touched my heart and soul and made me a stronger woman. Here is what I wrote: —–
Angelou paints hope for 4,000
By Pat Bean
Maya Angelou, a 6-foot-tall, nearly 70-year-old Southern black woman, charmed, tickled and stole the hearts of 4,000 Utahns Thursday night.
Speaking at Weber State University to kick off the Families Alive Conference, the author, poet, songwriter, actress, playwright, singer, historian and civil-rights activist “preached” a message of hope and optimism.
“And God put a rainbow in the clouds,” her rich voice softly cooed as the ending punctuation to each of her own stories.
Her single-purposed message was to let everyone know that “we’re all family – more alike than unlike.”
“From Birmingham, Alabama, to Birmingham, England, from Paris, France, to Paris, Texas,” she said in a pre-speech press conference.
“Basically we all want the same thing: a good job that pays us a little more than we’re worth, healthy children, safe streets …
“Fundamentally, there is no difference in us, although some of us may prefer Southern fried chicken … and some of us pasta.”
This is the 16th year for WSU’s College of Education to sponsor its Families Alive Conference, which focuses on strengthening today’s family. The conference continues through Saturday.
Angelou was introduced to her Thursday night audience by Allison Faucett a former St. Joseph Elementary School student. Faucett won an essay competition by writing about Angelou as her hero.
“Ms. Maya Angelou may not have defeated any mythical and great giants or slayed any fire-breathing dragons, but she has conquered evil and ugliness and has found splendor in a world of hate,” Faucett read.
After the introduction, when Angelou – wearing a silky gray suit, rings on her fingers and a colorful turban on head – walked into the Dee Events Center, she was welcomed by a standing ovation.
Although suffering from a sore throat and exhaustion, Angelou didn’t disappoint.
“Pray for me that my voice will get better,” she asked. And her voice seemed to get stronger with each of her stories.
She told of a little girl who spent May to December in Baltimore, but all that she remembered of the period was that someone called her “nigger.”
“But God put a rainbow in the clouds,” Angelou said.
In a down-to-earth theatrical presentation, Angelou recalled the far-reaching influence of her crippled uncle.
She and her brother, she said, often hid “Uncle Willie” beneath potatoes and onions in a store bin so he wouldn’t be beat or killed by the lynching “boys.”
Black men in the south weren’t safe when the lynching boys were on the prowl, said Angelou. She used shrugging shoulders and a cocky stance to describe the “boys,”
“It was the same stance she used to describe the men, who later in her life, were assigned to protect her by the first black mayor in the South, a man who gave credit to “Uncle Willie” for his being where he was.
“And God put a rainbow in the clouds,” she said.
Angelou said children need rainbows in the clouds.
“The issue is not whether we should do good but how good do we have to be. And if we’re asking the question, the answer is always not good enough yet,” she said.
Angelou said she tries to live her life along “Christian” principles, but is dismayed by those who announce they are Christians
“Already?. I think to myself.”
Angelou said one would have to be blind not to recognize the prejudice and hate that exists in the world today.
“But goodness gracious go back 100 years ago here in Utah and the kind of hate, madness and prejudices that existed then would have blown your mind … or 150 years ago when slavery was accepted. I think we’re doing very well. And it’s important to say so. We’ve come a long way.”
Angelou, herself, is a living example of that philosophy. A survivor of being raped at the age of 8, and the mother of an out-of-wedlock child at 16, Angelou is the author of 10 best-selling books.
She also wrote and delivered the 1993 presidential inauguration address for Bill Clinton, a fellow Arkansan.
Although pushing 70, as she herself says, Angelou still has a twinkle in her eye and a sassy sway to her hips.
“The woman I love is fat and black and chocolate to the bone. And every time she shakes (and here Angelou demonstrated to the delight of her Weber State audience) some skinny white woman loses her home.”
That was just one of several bouts of laughter, she caused Thursday night.
Said Angelou: “I don’t trust a person who doesn’t laugh.”
Blog pick of the day.
Bean Pat: Cordoba Highlights: A Mosque-Cathedral and a Microbrewery http://tinyurl.com/kkdpnrz Great armchair travel blog.
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