by Nicole R. Harris
Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Literary legend Dr. Maya Angelou is a living testament to how individual responsibility is a reflection of one's self. That reality was on display as she spoke at the 14th annual Agape Heartlight Celebration at The Cannon Center for Performing Arts last Saturday (Aug. 25).
"Agape is love. Sometimes we use it loosely, but it means I take responsibility for the time I take up and the space I occupy, said Angelou, the keynote speaker for Agape's largest annual fundraising event. "It means I love you....I take responsibility for myself as I treat you, strangers and friends."
Angelou told listeners of her humble beginnings. Born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Angelou was raised there and in Stamps, Ark. Following a traumatic experience, she became mute for six years, only speaking to her brother, whom she referred to as her "king."
Even through abuse and racial discrimination, Angelou broke barriers and did not let her circumstances define who she was to be in life. She went on to become a civil rights activist, filmmaker, historian, actress, producer, dramatist, educator, novelist, memoirist, and as she demonstrated on stage, a revered poet. All of this because of helping hands who took responsibility, even when they didn't have to.
"The only reason that I had that blessing was because of the many rainbows (in my life), said Angelou.
"Many of them were black, many white, some Asian, some Spanish speaking. If they could see me now. Just those who said, 'I believe you can do it, Maya....Here, here's a chance. What's your name?' And not to even remember my name, but to help me. Imagine."
Angelou was quick to display her humourous side throughout the evening. When explaining why she decided to stop traveling by air, she mentioned that she procured superstar Prince's bus for her road trips; pausing to affectionately run her fingers through her silver mane.
"I never trust people that don't laugh," she said.
With over 71 doctorate degrees and numerous educational institutes dedicated in her name, Angelou encouraged the crowd to imagine the possibilities.
"See where I came from, Stamps, Ark.; a mute. And today you've come to hear me speak. Imagine it. And I have come to thank you. Thank you for being rainbows in somebody's life."
Agape's Heartlight Celebration benefits all of Agape's programs, including homeless service, mentoring, foster care, adoption, maternity services and counseling.