Saturday, November 3, 2007

Rainbows of Hope


Maya Angelou dipped into the thrills, tragedies and triumphs that shaped her life last night to inspire people who help others.

"When it looks like the sun isn't going to shine any more, God put a rainbow in the sky," she sang in her honeyed voice, introducing her theme for the evening to a diverse audience of about 500 people at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

Angelou, an author, poet and civil-rights activist, was the special guest for a fundraiser benefiting Family Lifeline for its 130th anniversary. The Richmond-based organization works to create strong communities through strong families.

"If the rainbow is put in the clouds, there's a possibility of hope," she said. "I know the value of this organization. I know you are rainbows in the clouds," said Angelou, who used humor, song, poetry and biblical references during an hourlong inspirational talk.

Those who make a difference in the lives of others must do what they can to build themselves up, she said, suggesting laughter or poetry. She encouraged the audience to visit the library and ask for the work of 19thand 20th-century poets.

The librarians might be stunned because so many years have passed since they were asked for help, she joked.

The stately Angelou, known for her acclaimed autobiographies, including "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," said that whenever she writes a new book she seeks inspiration from poetry from various cultures. Poetry encourages her "to be more than I find myself right then."

Midway through her presentation, she returned to the rainbow theme. She spoke about her crippled uncle who taught her the multiplication tables and whose kindness profoundly touched others.

She spoke about being raped at age 8 and how she stopped speaking for five years as a result. It would have been easy for anyone to say "that's the end of that poor back girl on the dirt roads of Arkansas."

Today, Angelou is a professor at Wake Forest University, has won a Grammy and has been nominated for two Tony Awards, the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She has served as U.S. poet laureate, worked as a dancer, playwright, director and has written songs for such artists as Roberta Flack and Nancy Wilson, among other accomplishments.

"I have 65 doctorates. I'm on the board of Harvard's library. I teach all over the world," but I'm not bragging about myself, she said.

"I'm bragging about the rainbows in my clouds. Those who said 'I bet you can. I support you.' Those are the roles you play. How could I refuse a chance to talk to you?" she asked a rapt audience.

"There are people who will never know your names who will be better because of you. Can it get any better than that?"

For a group of students from the Thomas Jefferson High School's International Baccalaureate Programme, the evening with Angelou was magical.

"I loved her," said Jael Daniely, a senior. "I didn't think she would be that informal. She gave us a couple of laughs. It was very interesting."

Tommye Finley of Chesterfield County also enjoyed Angelou's presentation.

"I think it was inspiring, provocative and thought-provoking."


Gale said...

The more you are teaching me about this woman MG. the more i am liking what i lean...ta for that...x



Just wanted to thank you for posting my story about Maya Angelou!