Maya, Courage, and Rainbows in the Clouds

18 05 2007

My friends Frances, Jan and I went to NJPAC to hear Maya Angelou last night. Wow! I didn’t know one person could have so much impact. When the curtain lifted I had the sense that I was in the presence of a “somebody.” I’ve seen a number of solo performers on that same stage – Bill Cosby, David Sedaris – and solo performers on other stages, most notably Robin Williams at Lincoln Center. But, none of them gripped the audience the way Maya did and with only the radiance of a warm smile.

 I expected emotion and intensity from this woman. If you’re familiar with any of Maya’s work or know anything at all about her life, you know that passionate she is and shallow she is not. What startled me, though, was the vast depth of her soul and a sure sense of spirituality that emanates from her. I felt almost as though I was sitting in a house of worship rather than a secular although beautiful performing arts theatre.  It was truly moving.

As it turns out, Maya’s themes last night, “rainbows in the clouds,” courage, humor,  racism, sexism, were not new. When I got home, I googled Maya and “rainbows in the clouds” and found that many of her talks over the last 5+ years centered on these topics. Her message has been a steady drum beat – don’t despair, don’t be defeated, don’t give up, rise up, stand up, do what’s right, but do it with compassion and respect and, above all, humor.

She recited many poems to illustrate her points. I’ve included links to a few. She read 2 poems written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, A Negro Love Song and Sympathy, which is the original inspiration for Maya’s autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings that catapulted her into the national spotlight. In a light moment, she read Health Food Diner, a sarcastic look at her own struggle with smoking. She also read A Brave and Startling Truth, which she wrote for and read at the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

Maya, being the consummate storyteller that she is, entertained us with numerous humorous recounts of her life experiences including a very moving story about her Uncle Willie and his far-reaching effect on her and others as he strove to teach her times tables and one about how she came to travel in her own bus.

It was an evening no less grand than the lady herself, truly inspirational and very uplifting. If you ever have a chance to hear her live, jump at it.




2 responses

18 05 2007

I agree with you. Maya Angelou is total inspiration!

20 05 2007

A spontaneous tribute

We’ve enjoyed the living cadence
Of a treasure of this generation
Of all who now live, she’s an essence,
And from the eyes of a geriatrician,
With us she may not be long present
As part of fortunate existence.
But her hands, her words, make this event
Last longer than one lifetime, their brilliance
Lighting a path for the nexts. Love unspent
Continues, many more rainbows to create.
As we in love see her in age, wish a cent
Could give her youth, that vigor not abate
In one so strong, so beautiful, so vital.
Her dreams so real she can make us taste them,
Of hate vanquished and buried without ritual,
Of love standing tall, colorful, none to condemn
Each small act of kindness that inspires
Another in another, a chain of action to commend
Our little lives. In years to come, whatever transpires,
May our children say to theirs that our friend
Maya was heard today. In that sight and sound
Was where we all our rainbows found.

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