Still, Maya rises
When Maya Angelou wrote I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in 1970, it was not just an international literary sensation, a best-seller, but also a startling window into the myriad unspoken and unacknowledged repressions faced by a black woman in post-war America. Poet, author, singer, civil rights activist, educationist, playwright – Maya Angelou, who died at the age of 86 on Wednesday, was it all. One of the champions of 20th century world literature, who tirelessly strove to rescue African-American writing from the pigeonholes of ethnographic labels and straitjacketing, Angelou reveled in her myriad artistic avatars, balancing the pluralities of life and politics with élan. Her scathing and fulsome poetry was as much a critique of the entrenched prejudices simmering within the American sociopolitical cauldron as it was a robust affirmation of life in its many, vibrant colours. Angelou made a spectacular literary debut as a novelist in 1970, but never shied away from the past that saw her performing in strip clubs to earn a living while nursing a baby. Her electric friendships with Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and others made her a global name, whose beautiful and sublimely lucid lines brought tears to many sentinels of the postwar struggle for equal rights and dignity of black and coloured peoples around the world. The soul behind one of the most famous presidential inaugural poems On the Pulse of the Morning read out at the swearing-in ceremony of Bill Clinton in 1993, Angelou had sounded a note of cautious hope and jubilant alertness to mark the momentous point in US history. Her siding with Hillary Clinton during 2008 poll campaign against Barack Obama was reasoned thus: ‘I believe in going out with who I went in with.’ Truly, she was a rainbow in the clouds of time.