Dr. Maya Angelou is an author, a poet, a civil rights activist, film and television producer and so much more. So when she speaks, people hang on her every word. She recently visited Charlotte as the headliner for the 11th annual UNCF Women Who Lead Luncheon at the Westin Charlotte. In a private meeting with the media she said “The thing that is not told to journalists enough is ‘we need you.’ The world needs you. Have enough courage to be courageous and tell the truth. Don’t tell everything you know, but tell the truth.”
The event called for the guests to come dressed in their best hats, and that’s what they did: big hats, vintage hats, and colorful hats. It was a sold out event that attracted socialites and dignitaries. Actress Lynn Whitfield said that nothing would keep her away from seeing the living legend speak. “To see her, to hear her, to honor her.”
Initially the media was shy to speak, and Dr. Angelou reacted “Folks it’s not just a photo op. I’m here to answer questions.” The room exploded with laughter and the questions rang off. She was funny, witty and poured out her seemingly infinite bits of wisdom freely upon us. It seemed like every phrase had deeper meaning to a bigger thought. Afterward many of the newspersons said they felt “full” and that she “just gave us so much information.”
When going in for a photo I kneeled beside her wheelchair. She immediately reprimanded me and told me to standup up tall because I was tall. “Stand straight. Lean on no one and bow only to God.” A lesson that I will remember forever.
Dr. Angelou is a woman who has published many printed works: from autobiographies to poetry. She’s received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. During the Civil Rights movement she worked with both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. She’s a woman that has spoken at President Clinton’s inauguration, and the favorite of Oprah and President Barack Obama.
She celebrated her 85th birthday in April and I noticed that she was too vibrant to retire. She laughed and agreed. She still has many stories to share and desires deeply to share them with as many people who will listen. “You’re white, you’re Asian, you’re Spanish speaking. Whatever you are, you’re mine. And so I enjoy having a chance to tell you some of what I know.”
Never forgetting a face, she acknowledged a journalist she met years ago in Greensboro, all while subtly acknowledging the hot pop culture topic of the day, the Paula Deen “N-word” controversy, in passing conversation.
“The truth is anything good serves everybody. I’m sorry to say anything bad also.”
“If I’m lucky it will make your life richer, a little better, more demanding.”
Quoting her is easy, because everything she says is quotable. She’s an extraordinary woman that has created a legacy for people of all colors. To learn more about Dr. Angelou and what she is up to lately visit her personal website mayaangelou.com