Saturday, July 9, 2011
AGELESS JOURNEY: "Maya Angelou's Life Work" by Helene Weinberger
AGELESS JOURNEY: "Maya Angelou's Life Work"
by Helene Weinberger
A rainy day and the pleasure of opening Maya Angelou's LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER- how could anything be more perfect? I loved the opening " I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish speaking, Native American and Aleut." She truly embraces all cultures of the world with an open heart. As a woman of power with her diverse talents, she has inspired many of us to try to emulate her, as we marvel at her great illumination!
And when she deals with rape, Angelou becomes infuriated that some in our society insist that rape is caused by a need to feel powerful. Somehow this seems to lessen the trauma caused by this heinous sexual crime. For many years law enforcement people tried to place the blame on the victim, saying that if "she" had dressed more conservatively or had flirted less, the act would not have occurred. When Angelou describes the filth, the pain, the lifetime of fear that results, no one can be unmoved - and no one can dare to forget that she or her daughter could be the next victim!
Maya Angelou's prose writing is as magnificent as her poetry whatever the subject, but especially when she writes of great African American women, who have personally made a difference in the larger world. If we didn't know then, certainly now we will remember their unbelievably courageous acts As I read her vignettes I remind myself of how "protected" I was as a child. Never did I experience any humiliation designed to "put me in my place" which all black people faced then! I remember vividly that in the U.S. military, during Basic Training, our captain told us that if we went into the nearest town, we had to remember to sit in the front of the bus, simply because of the local laws, which relegated the back of the bus to black people. This was in 1944, and the only individual protest I could lodge was not to go to town and certainly not spend any money that would benefit the local economy.
Knowing that Oprah and Angelou and many other great, achieving women used the almost insurmountable obstacles they faced as stepping-stones on their path to becoming the shining lights that they are, is a solace to me, hoping that somehow I can be forgiven for not having fought harder or cared enough to do more in the early years of their struggle. It is also true that no one, white, black, yellow or red, completes his lifetime journey without overcoming times of disillusionment, disappointment, and depair.. We all have to find our own wings, and when we do, it is our duty and our privilege to shine our very small lights around us with very great love!
Helene Weinberger is a 87-year old World War II veteran that devotes a great deal of her time to volunteering. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is a contributor to Conversations Magazine both online and in print.