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There was only one Dr. Maya Angelou

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

My husband and I recently bought a house and anyone that has ever moved knows what an unbelievable pain it can be to get everything back to ‘normal’. So, on Wednesday, May 28, I spent the day at my new home waiting for the elusive internet provider to show his face. A rare but celebrated species; the Internet Man of Eastern Tennessee only appears when least expected and never within the gigantic designated time window in which simple folk referred to as “customers” are required to adhere to.
Many things happened in the world during my technology-free sabbatical but there was only one Maya Angelou.
Dr. Maya Angelou passed away on May 28, 2014. When I found out the following day, I was stunned. Not because her body hadn’t seen the hardships of many years or because she was the pinnacle of health. At 86-years-old, my surprise at Dr. Angelou’s passing had little to do with the logistics of dying and everything to do with the lack of knowing that a piece of my heart was leaving Earth as I performed menial household tasks, none the wiser.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to have met Dr. Angelou but I’ve known her since I was 13-years-old. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Dr. Angelou’s autobiography, was the first book to ever consume me. From the moment I picked it up, I was entranced; ultimately it shaped me.
To say that Dr. Angelou had a turbulent childhood would be like referring to the Atlantic Ocean as a big pond. Surviving the extreme instability of her parents, sexual assault and the eventual murder of her attacker all before age nine; Angelou had every possible card stacked against her. And to top it all off, she spent her formative years in Stamps, Arkansas. But just as she had traversed every mountain in her path; Dr. Angelou survived the brutality of growing up black in the Deep South under Jim Crow rule.
When you’re constantly a victim, it’s hard not to play it. So how does one go from victim to victor? In her lifetime, Dr. Angelou went from a young insecure, abused girl to a widely respected poet, novelist, civil rights activist and educator. The 86-year-old Angelou never stopped sharing her precious wisdom. She was an avid user of social media and just five days prior to her death, Dr. Angelou posted “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” More than a literary genius, Dr. Angelou was a warrior for the human race.
As I’ve been going through my days since the passing of Maya Angelou I have found myself in a precarious mood. Things that have always bothered me like sub-par customer service or witnessing a pre-teen or teenager disrespect his or herself seem to sting me just a bit deeper these days. Though it may not seem as though those two things should be related, consider this: If everyone cared a bit more wouldn’t the world be a better place in every aspect? If the service provider cared about his or her service, would bad customer service be a way of the past? If more adults who play witness to reckless behavior in teens stepped in, would as many young men and women stray down the wrong path?
You only get one life and as the iconic Angelou once said, “Life is going to give you just what you put in it. Put your whole heart in everything you do.” If a young black girl who grew up in a time when the world had preferred her to be invisible can become everything, can’t everyone become something?
“I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.” – Dr. Maya Angelou, April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014