Born in 1928 into a welfare family, she climbed out of the despair of abuse and accomplished much in her life before being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. Her eyes saw life from poverty to wealth, from abuse to fame, from silence to having a world who craved her honest, open sharing of life. She worked as a fry cook, a prostitute, a night club dancer, an actress, a journalist. She was active in the civil rights movement working with both Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcom X. She taught at Wake Forest University. She recited her own work, a poem entitled “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
While she certainly has her detractors, no one can say that she didn’t pull herself up by her bootstraps and make a life for herself. Some people have tried to have her works banned in their local libraries. Whether or not all of her autobiography is factually true, it was true in her mind. She shared her life as she remembered it.
I know she is a somewhat controversial subject. Well mannered women rarely make history. While I might not agree with everything she wrote, I admire her strength and courage. I admire her ability to share the pain she endured. By women like Maya sharing the most difficult times in their lives, we can perhaps all see our way clear to better days.
Your voice will be missed. Rest in Peace, Maya.