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A Peek Into the Life of a Working Mom: My Dance with Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
Cover of Maya Angelou
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise
. –"Still I Rise" Maya Angelou

Today we mourn the death of the esteemed poet, actor, singer, humanitarian, Dr. Maya Angelou.  I was saddened upon hearing of her death.  Dr. Angelou became a working mom before there was such a term. Like many, when I heard of her death I thought of how much her spirit, eloquence and poetry taught me.  She taught me to believe that the best part of me was left to be discovered. She taught me that greatness was achievable. And she made me believe that my thoughts were valuable enough to share.  She was one of a kind and irreplaceable.

My Introduction to Maya Angelou

Unlike many African American Women I don’t recall becoming acquainted with Dr. Angelou’s work until college.  I remember vividly where I was. I was attending rush for what became my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. The sister read “Phenomenal Woman”, and instantly I became an admirer.   

Several years later I had the opportunity to dance with Maya Angelou.  She literally held my hand and we danced. It still seems like a bit of a dream...

My Dance with Maya Angelou

It was about ten years ago.  I was a young lawyer and was a guest at an event for UNCF in Charlotte.  Maya Angelou was there.  The entertainment was the very talented, “Ashford and Simpson”, a group that Dr. Angelou called her “god children”.  After dinner, Ashford and Simpson sang a litany of Motown songs. It turns out they wrote most of the hits, including, “Reach out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” made famous by Diana Ross.  When they began singing that song Dr. Angelou decided that everyone should join hands. Since I was the closest person to her she grabbed my hand and lead me to the front. When we arrived at the stage we swayed. Others joined us, but for the remainder of the song I could only see her.  After the song ended, she dropped my hand.  The songs got faster and she returned to her seat.  I stayed on the dance floor and danced, as I have been known to do.  After all of the songs were over and I returned to my seat, she looked me in the eye and said, “keep dancing”.  It was a simple encounter, but I was forever changed.  
My only regret is that this happened before the age of social media when we all began documenting our lives for the world to see. As far as I know there are no photographs of our dance. Still, it happened. It was real. And I was forever changed.

It was not quite as dramatic as the woman who was healed after touching the hem of Christ’s garment, but it was magical.  I felt taller, more confident and beautiful.  I thought perhaps I had developed the “Heart of a Woman”, discovered by the “Caged Bird Sings”, and become a “Phenomenal Woman”.  After a few days, I remembered that I was just me, but my faith was renewed and I began to write again.  Since then, I have believed, if I could dance with Maya Angelou on a rather regular Saturday night anything is possible.

As a thank you, I added her to my Christmas card list and have sent her one every year since.  I guess I’ll be sending one less this year.  Thank you Dr. Angelou for helping me to develop into the woman I was always meant to be.
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