Ella Curry Interviews Dr. Maya Angelou-September 11, 2008
Maya Angelou: Letter to My Daughter
By Laura Major
Listen to the audio from the interview, fast forward to 13:30 for the interview.
By Laura Major
Listen to the audio from the interview, fast forward to 13:30 for the interview.
With women making the largest strides in the arenas of politics, education, entrepreneurship and business, no other time is more poignant for Letter to My Daughter, Maya Angelou's poetic tribute to the emotionally adopted daughters who have touched her life. In response to the question regarding the reason for her tribute, she was quoted, "I gave birth to one child–a son, but I have thousands of daughters." No doubt with this poetic volume, Dr. Angelou will garner many more female supporters happy to draw upon her maternal wisdom.
On September 11, 2008, the seventh anniversary of a very scary and profound time in US history, Dr. Maya Angelou met with Literary Publicist and CEO of EDC Creations Ella Curry to discuss her gift of poetry to the world's daughters. When Curry further asked about the book's inspiration, Dr. Angelou confided, "Well, this is my 80th year and I have been celebrating it all year long. And I realize that I have much less time ahead of me than I have behind and that I have learned some lessons and am in the process of learning some.
So I thought I would jot down some of the incidents, some events which took place in my life from which I drew great lessons."
Always a teacher and naturally so, Angelou had this to say, "In looking at that [my life's lessons], I didn't want to say which lessons I learned or what exactly I did with the lessons–solutions. Because I know that my readers are as intelligent and resourceful and they will read about one incident they will get one solution. They'll gather it and then six months later, if they read it again they will find another possible lesson to be learned. I know that is the way I do when I read other people's work...I hope that's what will happen to my readers."
Opening with a powerful letter to daughters everywhere, Angelou says in part, "My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring, still." As Curry accurately described, Dr. Angelou, "in the rhythm of her poetry and the elegance of her prose", expresses the numerous useful lessons in terms of the people she's met, the places she's been and the events of her life.
During the interview with Ms. Curry, one of the most awe-struck memories she shares is her friendship with Civil Rights Activist, Coretta Scott King. She says of their friendship, "I was brought to look at those events because a number of friends of mine have died recently and I thought back to Ms. King and how we were chosen sisters and how I miss her." Knowing the importance of grieving time but also knowing the need to celebrate the legacy our loves often leave for us, Dr. Angelo continued, "...I felt, 'Well maybe, maybe there's a way I can reduce the mourning, if I can go back to that life and see what their friendship did for me.'
And as I went back, I was disheartened, heartened, I was inspired because I had been thinking about their absence and not really about the fun we had and the lessons they taught me." Dr. Angelou goes on to describe how Ms. King's "stick-to-it-tiveness" has bolstered a lasting memory of her influential husband that may not have been more than "footnote in history" without Ms. King's tenacity.
Dr. Maya Angelou's Letter to My Daughter is packed with profound and inspirational gems designed to do what all faithful motherly advice does–educate, empower and empathize.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT FROM THE ORIGINAL INTERVIEW
Since 2000, EDC Creations has partnered with community leaders, business owners, book clubs, publishers, book stores and authors to bring readers the best representation of quality literature. Here are just a few comments on our service to the community and the quality of our work. The most important moment in EDC Creations history was our Intimate Conversations Interview with Dr. Maya Angelou, which we have shared below.
|Maya Angelou is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature and
as a remarkable Renaissance woman. Being a poet, educator, historian,
best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and
director, Dr. Angelou continues to
travel the world making appearances, spreading her legendary wisdom. A
mesmerizing vision of grace, swaying and stirring when she moves, Dr. Angelou
captivates her audiences lyrically with vigor, fire and perception. |
I am your host, Ella Curry.
Today we have with us Dr Maya Angelou.
Dr. Maya Angelou is a remarkable renaissance woman, who is held as one of the greatest voices of contemporary literature. As a poet, educator, historian, bestselling author, actress, playwright, civil rights activist, producer and director she continues to travel the world spreading her legendary wisdom. Within the rhythm of her poetry and the elegance of her prose lies Dr. Maya Angelou's unique power to help readers around the world.
Ella Curry: Welcome to the show, Dr Maya Angelou.
Dr Maya Angelou: Thank you very much Ms. Curry
EC: Wow you have a phenomenal new book out Letter to My Daughter, it's a book to cherish and savor, reread and share. You were quoted as saying, "I gave birth to one child– a son, but I have thousands of daughters. I'd like to thank you for offering this book for us.
Dr Maya Angelou : Thank you for receiving it.
EC: So tell us about your new book and what inspired you to write Letter to My Daughter?
Dr Maya Angelou : Well, this is my 80th year and I have been celebrating it all year long. And I realize that I have much less time ahead of me than I have behind and that I have learned some lessons and am in the process of learning some. So I thought I would jot down some of the incidents, some events which took place in my life from which I drew great lessons. And in looking at that, I didn't want to say which lessons I learned or what exactly I did with the lessons–the solutions. Because I know that my readers are as intelligent and resourceful and they will read about one incident they will get one solution. They'll gather it and then six months later, if they read it again they will find another possible lesson to be learned. I know that is the way I do when I read other people's work. So when I reread it, I think hmm, I didn't know that was in there all the time. So I hope that's what will happen with my readers.
EC: So in your book, Letter to My Daughter, you discuss several different topics and you remember lost friends such as Coretta Scott King and Ozzie David, could you talk to us about that for a minute, your memories?
Dr Maya Angelou : Yes, I was brought to look at those events because a number of friends of mine have died recently and I thought back to Ms. King and how we were chosen sisters and how I miss her. And then I thought about Ozzie and others. I thought about Max Roach and people that names many you don't know and some are famous and some not known but famous in my heart. And I thought, What on earth? Instead of just crying and mourning really, because while we celebrate the life we should be free to mourn as well. Mourn their absence. And as I was doing that I felt, Well maybe, maybe there's a way I can reduce the mourning, if I can go back to that life and see what their friendship did for me. And as I went back, I was disheartened, heartened, I was inspired because I had been thinking about their absence and not really about the fun we had and the lessons they taught me. I learned from Coretta, stick-to-it-tiveness.
Now I have learned that and have had other teachers to teach me that and life itself. But without Coretta Scott King just holding her faith that her husband would be remembered, I suspect that he would have. He could have become a footnote in the pages of history had she not simply stuck it. And because of her there's the King Center because of her and all the friends of course and the supporters. But because of her there's the King Day holiday. Without her there would not be that king memorial going up in Washington D.C.–in the Capitol. So I take from her life and even some conversations we've had, we traveled together to different places in the world. And when I think of that and I miss her, I'm able to look at what I got from her and be grateful to God for her life and be grateful to her for her love.
EC: Wow that is so powerful to be remembered in that way. Ms. King and Dr. Martin Luther King will forever be icons...I was about to say the African American community, but worldwide. They created change that will forever improve our way of life.
Dr Maya Angelou : I think we have to put into that Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz as well, into that mix. ...and Medgar Evers into that mix. And Fanny Lou Hamer, men and women who really sought to make a better life for African Americans and for all Americans and all people–really all people.
EC: So in 1959 through 1960 you were the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and you were appointed at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King. How did that feel? Take us back to that time.
Dr Maya Angelou ngelou: (laughter) Well you have to imagine I was young...'59, that's 50 years ago minus one. I was young, I'm six foot tall and I was very skinny at the time and I wore my hair natural–since 1952. And there was a lot of it. (laughter) o, I think, later on Angela Davis had a lot of it, well I looked sort of like that. (laughter)
EC: Oh wow, that was a lot of hair. (laughter)
Dr Maya Angelou .: And a number of people really, they were made really uncomfortable...people around the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in New York. One woman dropped a note in a column in the New York African American newspaper, The Amsterdam News. She wrote, "Who is this person who has come from the west coast with the savage hairdo? Don't they have beauticians or at least barbers out there on the coast?" (laughter)
It was heavy and so exciting because you'd have to be in his presence to sense the authority that Rev. King had. And I don't mean...I mean what is called charisma I think. It's a sense of he was in his skin and in the right place. So I was bowled over by that–by the job. I did my best and then I fell in love with a South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make and I married him and moved to Egypt.
EC : What traits do you see in Barack Obama that may also have been in the young Dr. Martin Luther King? I know they both speak so very well and elegantly. Do you see traits in Barack Obama that were the same as the young Dr. Martin Luther King?
Dr Maya Angelou .: Yes, I sense some of that. Of course, Senator Obama [is living] in another time. He is very inclusive, which is a wonderful thing. At that time when Rev. King first started he was not inclusive, he wasn't exclusive but it was only at the end of his life that he began to include openly. I mean before he said people of goodwill, African Americans or...and people of goodwill from anywhere.
But toward the end of his life when he started the plan for the Poor People's March, that plan included... and he in fact told it to me and everybody. He said, "This is not an African American people's march, the Negro march, it is not a Black march, this is for the poor Whites, this is for the poor Whites in West Virginia. This is for the poor Spanish-speaking people in Texas and California and Arizona. This is for the poor Native Americans on the reservations; this is for the poor Asians set apart to garden for the world and have no rights, no chances." He said, "This is a poor people's march". When he became that inclusive, he really became dangerous.
EC: That's a powerful statement and thought.
Dr Maya Angelou : Yes.
EC: Dr. Maya Angelou, we are launching the Give the Gift of Knowledge campaign at EDC Creations. That's where we are trying to encourage parents to not so much buy those expensive toys out there and to give a book and to share our history and our knowledge with the children. In your book Letter to My Daughter, what kind of wisdom or advice do you share on parenting and with mothers?
Dr Maya Angelou : Well, I don't know where in that book, I hope on every other page but being a parent is having such incredible power and just...you can crush a person, you can crush his spirit, you can absolutely cripple her childhood, you can do it. Or on the other hand, if you just take time and realize that you are the most important person in that person's life. And soften your voice a little when you talk to him. Be a little kinder when you talk to her. See, they don't know–smaller people. Children don't know that life is kicking you in the behind. They don't understand that. And they don't understand that that's why you may be kicking them or ignoring them or even abandoning them. They don't know that. They simply know that you're everything.
Dr Maya Angelou : And so to be a little kinder or a lot kinder for that matter to the children– to your children and to other people's children. And take the time to talk to them, don't ignore them–they have minds. And they need someone to say, "Good morning, how are ya...Lookin nice over there." They need that. What I'd like to say is...I'd like to ask that all of us have a little more patience and be kinder to the children.
Dr Maya Angelou : I think our time is up. If you have one more question, I'll accept it.
EC: Yes, Ma'am. A Pledge to Rescue Our Youth is my favorite displays of your passion for society, what inspired you to create that powerful message that empowers our community?
Dr Maya Angelou : Well... actually, Susan Taylor. Ms Taylor, the editor and chief of Essence magazine, called me one day and asked, "Ms. Maya, please, do we have anything we can say to the youth? I want to put it online. I gonna put it out in the New Orleans at the Essence Jazz Festival." And I just wanted to say something. So I said I'd try. And I as usual prayed first and began to work on that pledge. And it is, I am happy to say, Target Company took it and put in almost every newspaper in the country and put it in their stores so that the customers could have copies of it. It's a blessing, that people in church, in fact in two churches I know, it was in the programs. And sometimes I wish they didn't just put in and then take it out. I wish they would just leave it in the programs. Anyway, it's there.
EC: And we appreciate it. It is spectacular. I have it posted in my daughter's room and I try to read it often, because I'm the mother of a 13-year old. (laughter)
Dr Maya Angelou : Oh Lord...
EC: I try to...
Dr Maya Angelou : You have your work cut out for you.
EC: Oh, yes Ma'am, I do.
Dr Maya Angelou : Yes Ma'am. And please remember that she has no idea, she has no idea [of] her power and what is happening to you and what is being asked of you by the world, by your job and your other relationships. So she doesn't know when you say, "OK, that's enough..." you know, "Enough's enough"... that you're really not just talking to her, you're also talking to the world. So, God bless your heart and hers as well. And thank you for the interview.
EC: Thank you so much for sharing that with us. It was an honor to have you with the Black Authors Network today, discussing your book Letter to My Daughter.
Dr Maya Angelou : Thank you very much and please continue what you're doing. God bless your heart. Thank you.
EC: Thank you.
This show was brought to you by Ella Curry of EDC Creations
About Laura Major: Laura Major is a multicultural fiction author and freelance writer residing in the greater Phoenix area of Arizona. Her first novel, Mismatched was published by Amira Press in February of 2008. Laura also manages a multicultural website, Sable Lit Reviews.com, one of the few of its kind providing commentary on the multicultural impact of current events as well as multicultural book reviews.