Thursday, June 12, 2014

What You Didn't Learn from Maya Angelou's Memorial Service

This past Saturday was the Memorial Service of the great American poet, Maya Angelou.  As someone who has always had a hard time with funerals, I was not sure I was going to watch.  However, I put my big girl panties on and tuned in to the stream.  As I watched the stream online I couldn’t help but feel a certain way.   

When I joined the stream Oprah was stepping up to speak.  I was not surprised Oprah was on program because everybody knows that when it comes to Oprah it’s Gail, Maya Angelou, and Stedman… in that order.  I was ready to hear about the amazing life and times of Dr. Maya Angelou, but what I got instead was the most narcissistic eulogy ever.  Oprah repeatedly told stories about how Angelou would often remind her [Oprah] of how great she was.  She spoke about her school in Africa.  She told Maya that the school would be legacy.  Oprah so proudly told the grieving audience that the great poet told her that the school was not her legacy but her show, her show’s guests, and the audience themselves were her legacy.  How humble of Oprah to let everyone know that Maya Angelou knew Oprah was a legend.  And don’t get me started on how she ended her speech plugging a project she is working on called Salem and Maya told her it’s going to be awesome. 

After Bebe Winans shared a story about how the talented, late literary told him his family was great, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke.    She did talk about how the poem Phenomenal Woman helped her to realized that black women are beautiful too.  However, also Mrs. Obama told us that her mother commanded that she be at the service.  She let us know that she started from the bottom, coming from the south side of Chicago and moving into the White House.  Oh, and she reminded us that her husband is the first African American President of the United States. 
Then the First Lady shared an experience about Maya speaking at one of Barack’s campaign rallies.  This story had promise.  In the story, Maya strolled into the campaign rally like she owned the place.  After her speech, she spoke briefly with Michelle.  Now Michelle can’t remember what she said but apparently it was so profound that it provided her with some extra confidence.  If Maya Angelou told me something in Chinese it would be burned in my memory forever. 

Where were the eulogies about Maya’s life and accomplishments.   Where was the story about  Maya Angelou’s early years struggling as a single mother to keep food on the table for her son, Guy.  How she studied dance while working as a short order cook.  Where was the inspiration story about how in the mid 50’s, Ms. Angelou toured Europe performing the stage play, Porgy and Bess.  I wanted to hear how Maya Angelou being an actress, director, dancer, and writer of more poems than just Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise has inspired little girls around the world to be better people.  I admit that Oprah and Michelle have plenty of accolades but this was not about them.  It was not about Oprah’s school in Africa or Michelle’s journey to the White House.  It should have been about one of our country’s greatest writers.  Disappointedly, it was not. 

I told you she wrote more than one book
I might be in the minority but I was not satisfied with this Memorial Service.  I felt it was more about the guest list than it was about Maya Angelou.  For anyone wanting to know about the beautiful writer, I would advise you to read beyond I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  Do research on her and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  And then you will understand what a national treasure that we lost. 

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