The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it. Whenever I want to laugh, I read a wonderful book, 'Children's Letters to God.' You can open it anywhere. I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool - and I'm not any of those - to say that I don't write for the reader. Independence is a heady draught, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does.
I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans - because we can. A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud.
Won't it be wonderful when black history and native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
Of course, there are those critics - New York critics as a rule - who say, 'Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it's good but then she's a natural writer.' Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. When I cook for my family on Christmas, I make feijoada, a South American dish of roasted and smoked meats like ham, pork, beef, lamb, and bacon - all served with black beans and rice. We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders. My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring still.
It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. At one time, you could sit on the Rue de la Paix in Paris or at the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv or in Medina and you could see a person come in, black, white, it didn't matter. All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike. It's good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. I promised myself that I would write as well as I can, tell the truth, not to tell everything I know, but to make sure that everything I tell is true, as I understand it. Fighting for one's freedom, struggling towards being free, is like struggling to be a poet or a good Christian or a good Jew or a good Muslim or good Zen Buddhist.
I never had that feeling that I had to carry the weight of somebody's ignorance around with me.
If you will have a person enslaved, the first thing you must do is convince yourself that the person is subhuman. I know some people might think it odd - unworthy even - for me to have written a cookbook, but I make no apologies.
If you're serious, you really understand that it's important that you laugh as much as possible and admit that you're the funniest person you ever met.
The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerance. I find in my poetry and prose the rhythms and imagery of the best - I mean, when I'm at my best - of the good Southern black preachers.
I read the Bible to myself; I'll take any translation, any edition, and read it aloud, just to hear the language, hear the rhythm, and remind myself how beautiful English is. I never expected anyone to take care of me, but in my wildest dreams and juvenile yearnings, I wanted the house with the picket fence from June Allyson movies. On Saturday afternoons when all the things are done in the house and there's no real work to be done, I play Bach and Chopin and turn it up real loudly and get a good bottle of chardonnay and sit out on my deck and look out at the garden. I think I have had so much blessing - I've had my brother, who was brilliant - I think my family came closest to making a genius when they made my brother - Bailey was just all of that. A black person grows up in this country - and in many places - knowing that racism will be as familiar as salt to the tongue.
When a person is going through hell, and she encounters someone who went through hellish hell and survived, then she can say, 'Mine is not so bad as all that. During bad circumstances, which is the human inheritance, you must decide not to be reduced. In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats - maybe it's imperative that we encounter the defeats - but we are much stronger than we appear to be and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be. Politicians must set their aims for the high ground and according to our various leanings, Democratic, Republican, Independent, we will follow. There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing. To take a few nouns, and a few pronouns, and adverbs and adjectives, and put them together, ball them up, and throw them against the wall to make them bounce. Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently.
Once you appreciate one of your blessings, one of your senses, your sense of hearing, then you begin to respect the sense of seeing and touching and tasting, you learn to respect all the senses. I always knew from that moment, from the time I found myself at home in that little segregated library in the South, all the way up until I walked up the steps of the New York City library, I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I'll be OK. If you were the President of the United States or the Queen of England - you couldn't have a person who would be more protective than my mother was for me. I thank God I'm myself and for the life I'm given to live and for friends and lovers and beloveds, and I thank God for knowing that all those people have already paid for me. Somehow, we have come to the erroneous belief that we are all but flesh, blood, and bones, and that's all. While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man's humanity to man. I love the melodies in the Old Testament, how preachers highlight them when they read from the Scripture.
You have to develop ways so that you can take up for yourself, and then you take up for someone else. When younger writers and poets, musicians and painters are weakened by a stemming of funds, they come to me saddened, not as full of dreams and excitement and ideas. I admire people who dare to take the language, English, and understand it and understand the melody.
Our stories come from our lives and from the playwright's pen, the mind of the actor, the roles we create, the artistry of life itself and the quest for peace. I have a feeling that I make a very good friend, and I'm a good mother, and a good sister, and a good citizen.
We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike. One of my lungs is half gone, and the other half, because I smoked for years, has a lesion.
Elimination of illiteracy is as serious an issue to our history as the abolition of slavery.
At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice. I think Clinton, after getting into office and into Washington, was shocked at being bludgeoned.
If I'm the people's poet, then I ought to be in people's hands - and, I hope, in their heart. You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. If we accept being talked to any kind of a way, then we are telling ourselves we are not quite worth the best.
Growing up, I decided, a long time ago, I wouldn't accept any manmade differences between human beings, differences made at somebody else's insistence or someone else's whim or convenience. Courage - you develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn't want to pick up a 100-pound weight without preparing yourself.
Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
The first decade of the twentieth century was not a great time to be born black and poor and female in St. Some critics will write 'Maya Angelou is a natural writer' - which is right after being a natural heart surgeon. In a magazine, one can get - from cover to cover - 15 to 20 different ideas about life and how to live it. For a person who grew up in the '30s and '40s in the segregated South, with so many doors closed without explanation to me, libraries and books said, 'Here I am, read me.' Over time I have learned I am at my best around books.
I like to speak on matters which matter to human beings, and almost everything matters to human beings. Whenever something went wrong when I was young - if I had a pimple or if my hair broke - my mom would say, 'Sister mine, I'm going to make you some soup.' And I really thought the soup would make my pimple go away or my hair stronger. The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart. The poetry you read has been written for you, each of you - black, white, Hispanic, man, woman, gay, straight.
Whenever I'm around some who is modest, I think, 'Run like hell and all of fire.' You don't want modesty, you want humility. The hope, the hope that lives in the breast of the black American, is just so tremendous that it overwhelms me sometimes. All of us knows, not what is expedient, not what is going to make us popular, not what the policy is, or the company policy - but in truth each of us knows what is the right thing to do. My life has been one great big joke, a dance that's walked a song that's spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself. It's very important to know the neighbor next door and the people down the street and the people in another race.
I am never proud to participate in violence, yet I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves that we can be ready and able to come to our own defence when and wherever needed.
Those of us who submitted or surrendered our ideas and dreams and identities to the 'leaders' must take back our rights, our identities, our responsibilities. I think a number of the leaders are, whether you like it or not, in the hip-hop generation. Living in a state of terror was new to many white people in America, but black people have been living in a state of terror in this country for more than 400 years. I was very blessed to have family and friends, but particularly family, who told me I was not only all right, I was just right, so I believe that my brain is a good one, and it's lasting me very well.
Subscribe to O, The Oprah Magazine for up to 72% OFF what others pay on the newsstand — that's like getting 19 FREE issues! While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God's creation. When the human race neglects its weaker members, when the family neglects its weakest one - it's the first blow in a suicidal movement. If you want what you're saying heard, then take your time and say it so that the listener will actually hear it.
In a long meter hymn, a singer - they call it 'lays out a line.' And then the whole church joins in in repeating that line. It's so tedious writing cookbooks or writing the recipes because I've never been much of a measurer.
If I walked into the kitchen without washing my hands as a kid, I'd hear a loud 'A-hem!' from my mother or grandmother.
Had I not had my grandmother, who dared to be my rainbow in the clouds, I would have been just another sexually abused barefoot black girl on the roads of Arkansas. You can't be consistently fair, consistently generous, consistently just, or consistently merciful. The human heart is so delicate and sensitive that it always needs some tangible encouragement to prevent it from faltering in its labour. I am convinced that words are things, and we simply don't have the machinery to measure what they are. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they're stones that don't matter.
It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. The challenge I put on myself is so great that the person I live with feels himself challenged. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. You work all day long and achieve some kind of level of success by nightfall, go to sleep and wake up the next morning with the job still to be done. Not just to the person or persons for whom I'm praying, but also something wonderful happens to me. And that was true for racists who wanted to use the 'n' word when talking about me or about my people, or the stupidity of people who really wanted to belittle other folks because they weren't pretty or they weren't rich or they weren't clever.
If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin - find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less. The second thing you have to do is convince your allies so you'll have some help, and the third and probably unkindest cut of all is to convince that person that he or she is subhuman and deserves it. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water. It's like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy - it's serious business. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance. The lyricism of the spirituals and the directness of gospel songs and the mystery of blues are in my music or in my poetry and prose, or I missed everything. I want to write so that the reader in Des Moines, Iowa, in Kowloon, China, in Cape Town, South Africa, can say, 'You know, that's the truth. Obviously, it would be easier if someone was African-American and lived next door and went to the same church.
Politicians must be told if they continue to sink into the mud of obscenity, they will proceed alone. I grew up in the South, in a little village in Arkansas, and the whites in my town were really mean, and rude. But if you're not, at least you can have the sense that there is a condition inside you which looks at the stars with amazement and awe.
So he spent time trying to be all things to all people - one way guaranteed not to be successful or respected in a lion's den. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive. That there's somebody in Mississippi and somebody in Tokyo who all have wept, who've all longed and lost, who've all been happy. Then when I went out to California, I started listening to Spanish music, mostly Mexican music.
And if we have the effrontery to talk to anybody with less than courtesy, we tell ourselves and the world we are not very intelligent.
It makes him or her say, 'I'm not worthy of being written up in the record of deeds in heaven or on earth.' Timidity keeps people from their good. That is to say, let's see if we can't prevent being ill by trying to offer a love of prevention before illness.
She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. I see the neglect in cities around the country, in poor white children in West Virginia and Virginia and Kentucky - in the big cities, too, for that matter. I know it was meant to belittle a person, so I will not sit there and have that poison put on me. I know that a number of people look down on themselves and consequently on everybody who looks like them.
You can be anything erratically, but to be that thing time after time after time, you have to have courage. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young. That's why we paint, that's why we dare to love someone - because we have the impulse to explain who we are.
The man who gave it to me lived across the street from the store and kept it when my grandmother's papers were destroyed. And you don't have to be, you know, a brilliant biochemist and you don't have to have an IQ of 150. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you're inviting a person into your life.
That's what James Baldwin did, and Joan Didion did, and that's what I do - that's what I mean to do. And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay - and rise!
And then sometimes you see a situation and think, 'I'd like to write about that.' Those are two different ways of being approached by a poem, or approaching a poem. The reason I didn't speak: I had been molested, and I told the name of the molester to my brother who told it to the family. Now it's what I call the dance pavilion, and so I and my friends sit out and put music on and watch people dance. So the library helps you to see, not only that you are not alone, but that you're not really any different from everyone else. But were I in Egypt, I would listen to the music of the people, or if I was in Italy, I'd listen to Italian music. When I get there, I remember how the light was, where the draft was coming from, what odors were in the air.
But I like - if somebody is going to come into my house and I have not put out the welcome mat, I want to stop them. And what I need to do is prepare myself so that I can pay for someone else who has yet to come but who may be here and needs me. The Watch OWN app is free and available to you as part of your OWN subscription through a participating TV provider. It should be accessible to the child, to the woman, to the man, to the old person, to the semiliterate, to the presidents of universities, to everyone. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself - for the time you take up and the space you occupy. I knew that my heart would break if ever I put my foot down on that soil, moist, still, with old hurts. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.
I'm always amazed when people walk up to me and say, 'I'm a Christian.' I always think, 'Already?
I'm here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I'm at, then I go forward to the next place. And it seems that if you love the thing, and you don't just want to possess it, it will find you.
Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. When numerous women come together and show that they care, not only for themselves but also for each other, that is the occasion when a rainbow is shining down on somebody else. What black old people used to call 'mother wit' means intelligence that you had in your mother's womb. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don't grow up. But by the time I was in my 20s, I found myself writing little essays and more poetry - writing at writing.
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