OPSEU and the Workers of Colour Caucus join the world in mourning the loss of Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou died on May 28th, 2014 in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Maya was a world re-known Author and Poet, and her most famous autobiography was published in 1970; ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings’.
There was also a side of Maya Angelou that is not as widely known. This is the political and social activism of Maya Angelou. Angelou was born in 1928 as Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Stamps, Arkansas. She had a difficult childhood, being raised by a single mother and her grandmother. Maya was her childhood nick name and she later re-named herself Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou witnessed the social and political upheaval of Jim Crow’s South.
Maya’s activism led her from the U.S. to Egypt where she became a journalist. She also worked at the University of Ghana where she joined other activists in their march against Washington held at the American Embassy in Ghana. While in Ghana in the early 1960’s she met Malcom X.
On returning to the United States Maya Angelou worked with Malcom X to build his Organization of Afro-American Unity. Following Malcom X assassination, his organization dissolved and Maya continued her activism by working with Martin Luther King.
Martin Luther King appointed her Northern Co-coordinator for the Southern Christina Leadership Conference, which was the civil-rights organization that grew out of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of 1957. Coincidentally, Martin Luther King was assassinated on her birthday. The link below provides additional information on the activist role of Maya Angelou. http://mayaangelou.com/bio/
Maya Angelou published dozens of books in her life time. In 1993 Maya read her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration-the only second poet ever to do so, the first being Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration of 1961. http://time.com/123204/maya-angelou-bill-clinton-inauguration/
Maya Angelou remained a supporter of the Clintons, and originally threw her weight behind Hillary Clinton for the Presidential nomination in 2008. She later joined in support of Senator Obama in the Presidential race following Hilary Clinton’s stepping down. OPSEU’s Workers of Colour Caucus celebrates this ‘phenomenal woman’ and like the rest of the world, we mourn the loss of Maya.