FOR MAYA ANGELOU, A WOMAN TRIUMPHANT IN ALL SEASONS

On the Occasion of Dr. Angelou’s visit to Brookdale Community College
February 25th, 2009

Majestic Woman, Universal Mother,
We at Brookdale, salute your beauty, your courage, your strength,
Your commitment to a vision of humanity
That to many around the world you have now lent…
As we salute you, we remember your early days
When the caged bird sang in such deeply moving and beautiful ways:

“But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.”*

Brilliant Woman, Magnificent Writer
We at Brookdale humbly celebrate your wisdom, your oratory, your wondrous literary gifts
That have given to millions, opportunities, again and again
To experience many beautifully articulated and such inspiring lifts:

“Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise, I rise, I rise.”**
Courageous Woman, Caring, Elegant Lady
We at Brookdale joyfully join hands with millions of others
In bringing to you our admiration, our affection, our gratitude
For imperishable, empowering words that for decades
Have exploded, have soared, have opened ways
In so many individual racial and gender based passion plays:

“We understand
just why your head’s not bowed
why you don’t shout or jump about
or have to talk real loud.
When we see you passing
it makes us proud.
We say
It’s in the click of your heels
the bend of your hair
the palm of your hand
the need of your care
‘Cause you are a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s you.”***

The people’s poet, for many years you have been
Decreased are the racial atrocities that in the 1930s in Stamps, Arkansas were seen
Barack Obama, president! way beyond what many dared to dream!
But as you said on CBS:“ Harry Smith, We All Rise”. We all rise, We all rise.

Maya, you’ve been and are blessed with four score years and more
And now you are filled with gratitude to see your country pour
Its energy, its hope, in a “Black man” who in your life time
On pain of death could not go to the same store as a “White man”
A “White man” who could break through a private door,
Haul him out and lynch him
But never in this country, any punishment bore…
Yes, Maya, you are a blessing to millions
And to the thousands of daughters, who you, adore.

So now from the depths of millions of hearts,
In many different languages and voices “On the pulse of the morning”
And late into the afternoon, we sing, we dance, we will croon:
“ Long live, Maya, Beautiful, Triumphant over what has been,
And now we declare you, our very own American Queen!”.

Elaine Alaoya

*Angelou, Maya. (1970) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York:
Bantam Books
**Angelou, Maya, (1978) And Still I Rise. New York: Bantam Books

***Angelou, Maya (1995) Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems for Women
New York: Bantam Books

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