September 2006 Interview: Dr. Maya Angelou
Civil Rights activist, actress, Pulitzer Prize nominee, screenwriter, internationally renowned and beloved poet and author, Maya Angelou is one of the most influential people of our time.
Fluent in half a dozen languages, with over 30 published books, I’m talking books of poetry, children’s books, she’s done everything, from films and plays, to presidential inaugurations. With some ridiculous number of honorary degrees, Maya Angelou is a true Blackademic.
I had the HONOR of sharing a few minutes with Maya at her home in Winston Salem, while she was filming a documentary on Kwanzaa written and directed by one of our very own Blackademics contributors, MK Asante. She is one of the most warm gracious and caring women I’ve ever met. Remind me of my grandmamma. Black people-Listen closely to what she has to say to us, these are words of wisdom.
Dr. Maya Angelou: I’m recording this for my nephew, Pierce Randall Freelon. Who’s really about fifteen, but goes around pretending to be twenty-two. A pledge to rescue our youth. I was asked to write this by Mrs. Susan Taylor for the Essence gathering, summer gathering, and she printed up fifty thousand copies of this and they were given out on cards. And a number of different people at the gathering in Houston, I think at the gathering in Houston- asked to read it. So Dr. Barbara King, Bishop T.D. Jakes, and
Pierce: and you said Jamie Fox read it too, right?
MA: Jamie Fox, yeah. So here it is. I’m recording this for the ears and the heart and soul of Pierce.
A pledge to our youth.
Young women, young men of color.
We add our voices to the voices of your ancestors.
Who speak to you over ancient seas
and across impossible mountaintops.
Come up from the gloom of national neglect.
You have already been paid for.
Come out of the shadow of irrational prejudice.
You owe no racial debt to history.
The blood of our bodies and the prayers of our souls have bought for you
a future free from shame, and bright beyond the telling of it.
We pledge ourselves and our resources to seek for you
clean and well furnished schools.
Safe and non-threatening streets.
Employment which makes use of your talents
that does not degrade your dignity.
You’re the best we have.
You are all we have.
You are what we have become.
We pledge you our whole hearts.
From this day forward.
I am Maya Angelou and I stand by that pledge.
PF: Thankyou. Do you have any words for the youth out there?
MA: All of that. All of that. One hand washes the other and that is to say while older people are dealing and doing their best, the youth has to put its hand in too. You know, I know it’s late in the game, but it’s never too late. When good brains and good hearts get together, It’s never too late.
PF: Thank you very much
MA: Thank you very much.