"In the course of staying alive, I always love to hear people laugh. I never trust people who don't laugh... " Maya Angelou has accomplished a myriad of things - she's sung opera, danced on TV, starred in films, on Broadway, recorded albums, written plays, books, poetry. And it's poetry that sings like a song, moves like a dance, touches like love, sends us soaring like commandments from above.
Regal in a V-necked black gown, simple silver chain, sparkling drop earrings, she sung her message of human dignity Sept. 25 at Clowes Memorial Hall, laughing with us through her hard-scrabble life, finding laughter to mitigate hate. From the inspiration of the first landing of Africans in 1619 to the present day, she's found her way out of the mire; turned "Inner mystery" into desire to move beyond closed doors to where wisdom soars in simple homilies, to be the rainbow in the clouds when the sun won't shine.
It's twenty-five years since Ms. Angelou inaugurated Butler's Distinguished Lecture Series, and she brought us full circle last night, amplifying the nobleness of human spirit that she embodies, shares and inspires. She came and left us better for her coming. "Sometimes you have to stop to think where your rainbow comes from." And "I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me," she quotes from Terentius Afer, sold into slavery, freed to become a popular Roman playwright.
"Freedom, a chance to see hope," is the rainbow in the clouds. As long as one person is enslaved, no one is totally free. From "A Brave and Startling Truth": "We, this people, on a small and lonely planet /Traveling through casual space /Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns /To a destination where all signs tell us/ It is possible and imperative that we learn /A brave and startling truth ... .We, this people... Have the power to fashion for this earth /A climate where every man and every woman /Can live freely without sanctimonious piety /Without crippling fear."