I love women. I truly do. No offense, guys, because some of my best friends are men. But when push comes to shove and choices have to be made about the company I keep, I’ll choose a woman. Every time.
One of my favorite women is Maya Angelou. I treasure images of book covers of her books I’ve read, images of the lines of her poetry and images of her face and presence on a television screen. I revere an image of her on a presidential dais at the inauguration ceremony of an American President. Images of her with Civil Rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leave an indelible mark on me because they are a reminder of her lifelong commitment to social justice issues and equal opportunities for all. Today when I heard she died at her home, all those images flooded my mind.
But what I will miss most about this woman is what I hear and not what I see. The rich, slow – almost ponderous – rhythms of her speech mesmerized me, and the deep rumbling voice was like the sound of my old Dodge Dakota pickup truck’s muffler when I start it first thing in the morning. Music to my ears.
In 1998 Maya Angelou spoke at the Second Annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner and the HRC Blog today posted an excerpt from her speech that evening on the importance of gay people coming out of the closet. I lifted an excerpt from the excerpt.
You have no idea who you will inform because all of us are caged birds,
have been and will be again.
Caged by somebody else’s ignorance.
Caged because of someone else’s small-mindedness.
Caged because of someone else’s fear and hate…
and sometimes caged by our own lack of courage.
Maya Angelou was a woman with many gifts and abilities who had the courage to use them to lift us to higher ground and take us to a place we can all call home. A Renaissance Woman, a legend in her own lifetime, a woman of substance – all these and more. I will miss her words and the voice that gave them life.