Poet and veteran civil rights activist, Maya Angelou is the sage of black America. And for her, Barack Obama has delivered. She talks about her hopes for his-re-election – and receiving an award from his wife Michelle.
There has always been something bittersweet about the life experience of Maya Angelou. Think of the literature fashioned from a harsh and tragic upbringing in racially segregated Missouri and Arkansas: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now. Think of her triumphs articulating the struggle of African Americans through the civil rights era. Consider that each year, her birthday, 4 April, brings with it both joy and painful memories. Who would share that anniversary with the assassination of her friend, Martin Luther King?
This year, if it progresses as Angelou expects, will exacerbate the pattern, bringing a momentous high, but not before some sickening lows. Don’t worry about Barack Obama, says the chronicler of black history. He’ll be re-elected. He deserves to be re-elected. But between now and November, it’s going to get nasty.
“I think we are going to see a number of people who say: ‘I have no racial prejudice in my heart, not in my conversation,’” Angelou says. “But in the next few months, as we wind up to the double campaign, I tell you we are going to see some nastiness, some vulgarity, I think. They’ll pull the sheets off.”
Obama has critics and doubters. Angelou, the sage of black America, now 83, has no time for them. “I think he has done a remarkable job, knowing how much he has been opposed,” she says. “Every suggestion he makes, the Republicans en masse fight against him or don’t vote at all.” It’s about him being a Democrat and being the first black president, she says.
Angelou worked with King in the 1960s as northern co-ordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the pair debated the possibility of a black president. King said it would happen within 40 years. Angelou told him it would not happen in her lifetime. She was wrong; happily so.
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