Q&A with Maya Angelou
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
What is the most rewarding thing about speaking to audiences, especially in a college setting?
Wonderful question. I love those faces. I love to be around young people and to say something and have it click with them and almost see the little arrows go off of their head. It’s wonderful because young people are thirsty for knowledge and sometimes they don’t know, but that’s the only thing that keeps the schools filled with students. No one has a whip pushing them into school. Sometimes they go willingly because they want to know, so that always excites me.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black history is exciting, particularly because, unfortunately, the history books are not as fair with African-American history as the writers are with standard American history—that is, white American history, so it’s exciting for a number of reasons. It’s exciting because we are aware of how rich our history is and people need heroes and “sheroes” in order to believe ‘I’m worth something, I know that I come from people who are worth something.’ We all have a reason for being. If the playing fields were even, African-American history would be taught in American history, so with Asian-American and Latino-American [history], it would all be taught fairly, but it’s not, so until that time happens we have to have African-American history. We have to have history month, and I think two or three months wouldn’t be bad.
Going off of that point, you write a lot about women’s rights and especially black women’s right. Being a black female role model, what do you hope black women can take from your life?
Well, that they’re worth more. They’re worth more than then they think. They are worth more than being called the “B word”—that we have kept our own stories alive by telling them to their children and living lives where sometimes we are the breadwinners and really the head of households. So many people can tell us about being raised by a mother. The father was present. I’m sorry about that—I’m sorry to even know that’s true. African-American women not only need to respect themselves but other women. There was a song once that said, ‘I don’t want no woman hanging around me and my man.’ That’s so stupid. Some women say they understand men better then women and it’s unfortunate because that’s not very smart. You have to be on your own side. How can anybody ask someone else to be on your side if you’re not on your side?
What do you want the audience to gain out of what you speak about?
I hope that they’ll take notes, and I hope that they’ll talk amongst themselves after and that’ll they’ll read some of the books I would suggest to them and some of the writers I would suggest to them and that they’ll write me notes. People often do and sometimes they’ll get on Facebook and tell me all sorts of things. I have a Facebook with 4 million fans.
What’s next for you? Do you have any up and coming projects?
Yes, I have a book coming out called, “Mom & Me & Mom”
What inspired you to write this book?
Many people have asked me, ‘How did you get to be this way? How do get to be Maya Angelou, born black in the poor white country where money is adored?’ Well actually because of the love of my mother and my brother who taught me that I really was worth everything, that I really was smart, that I really could hope to do everything and because of that, I’ve done fabulous things. You know, born black and poor in the south and female. And I’ve been translated in Yugoslavia, and I lived in Egypt and worked as a journalist and conduct the “Boston Talks” and all sorts of wonderful things so far, and I’m just celebrating my 84th birthday.
I have one last question. What are you most proud of in your career as of now?
I can’t say one thing. I can say that I’m grateful that I have been courageous and tried to do a number of things and my best. Not everything I’ve written is a masterpiece, not every song I’ve composed is a masterpiece, but I continue to work and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful to try to be a Christian. I’m trying to be a Christian and that’s no small matter. It’s like trying to be a Muslim or Buddhist or Jew. It’s not something you achieve and then sit back and rub your hands together and say, ‘I got it.’ But I’m trying, I’m working on it—and I’m grateful for that.