"The honorary duty of a human being is to love,"
"The honorary duty of a
human being is to love,"
"I am human," Angelou said, quoting from her own work,
"and nothing human can be alien to me."
Maya Angelou, born April 4, 1928 as Marguerite
Johnson in St. Louis, was raised in segregated rural Arkansas.
She is a poet, historian, author, actress, playwright, civil-rights
activist, producer and director. She lectures throughout the US
and abroad and is Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake
Forest University in North Carolina since 1981. She has published
ten best selling books and numerous magazine articles earning
her Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations. At the
request of President Clinton, she wrote and delivered a poem at
his 1993 presidential inauguration.
Dr. Angelou, who speaks French, Spanish,
Italian and West African Fanti, began her career in drama and
dance. She married a South African freedom fighter and lived in
Cairo where she was editor of The Arab Observer, the only English-language
news weekly in the Middle East. In Ghana, she was feature editor
of The African Review and taught at the University of Ghana. In
the 1960's, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ms.
Angelou became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference. She was appointed by President Gerald Ford
to the Bicentennial Commission and by President Jimmy Carter to
the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's
Maya Angelou, poet, was among the first
African-American women to hit the bestsellers lists with her "I
Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," held the Great Hall audience
spellbound with stories of her own childhood. She ranged from
story to poem to song and back again, and her theme was love and
the universality of all lives. "The honorary duty of a human
being is to love," Angelou said. She spoke of her early love
for William Shakespeare's works, and offered her audience excerpts
from the poems of several African-Americans, including James Weldon
Johnson and Paul Lawrence Dunbar. But always, she came back to
love - and humanity. "I am human," Angelou said, quoting
from her own work, "and nothing human can be alien to me."
In the sixties, at the request of Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr., she became the northern coordinator for the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference and in 1975 she received
the Ladies Home Journal Woman of the Year Award in communications.
She received numerous honorary degrees and was appointed by President
Jimmy Carter to the National Commission on the Observance of International
Woman's Year and by President Ford to the American Revolutionary
Bicentennial Advisory Council. She is on the board of the American
Film Institute and is one of the few female members of the Director's
In the film industry, through her work in
script writing and directing, Maya Angelou has been a groundbreaker
for black women. In television, she has made hundreds of appearances.
Her best-selling autobiographical account of her youth, "I
Know Why the Cage Bird Sings," won critical acclaim in 1970
and was a two hour TV special on CBS. She has written and produced
several prize winning documentaries, including "Afro-Americans
in the Arts," a PBS special for which she received the Golden
Eagle Award. She was also nominated for an Emmy Award for her
acting in Roots, and her screenplay Georgia, Georgia was the first
by a black woman to be filmed. In theatre, she produced, directed
and starred in "Cabaret for Freedom" in collaboration
with Godfrey Cambridge at New York's Village Gate; starred in
Genet's "The Blacks" at St. Mark's Playhouse; and adapted
Sophocles "Ajax" which premiered in Los Angeles in 1974.
She wrote the original screenplay for "Georgia, Georgia"
and wrote and produced a ten-part TV series on African traditions
in American life. Maya Angelou is currently Reynolds Professor
at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Her poem, Still I Rise,
meant to be a call to assertiveness and pride for blacks, is a
completely appropriate outcry to the prejudice, humiliation, and
demanded submission experienced daily by active and recovering
hypoics (addicts) of all sorts at the hands of addictophobes,
governments, and physicians across this land. The parallel between
slavery, racism and the drug war and addictophobia is uncanny
and incites all addicts to RISE.