I went to see Maya Angelou speak tonight. ASU hosted the event in the convocation center and it was open to the public for free. To see such a great woman in person was an amazing experience.
“You are here,” she said, “to see that we are more alike than we are unalike.” And it didn’t stop there. She urged everyone, a crowd of thousands, to become the great men and women we can all be. She said that our voices are needed.
And she told us a few stories. The one that sticks in my head is this: When she was 7, she went to live with her mother’s family. While she was there, her mother’s boyfriend raped her. She told her family what had happened and the man spent 1 night in jail.
The next day, a policeman showed up at her door to let their family know that the man in question had been found beaten to death.
Because of this, Maya Angelou felt responsible. She thought her voice had killed him. The only person she talked to for the next six years was her brother, because she knew she could never harm him. And during this time, she consumed books and poetry like candy.
She said that when she’s asked how she got to be who she is, she answers “The poetry.” Because words shaped her life from the very beginning.
She quoted many authors, poets, and playwrights, but the saying at the top of this post is the one that struck me most.