Angelou was a freedom conductor

The Glide pastor shared his memories along with Janice Mirikitani
The Glide pastor shared his memories along with Janice Mirikitani
“The first woman I ever saw wearing African garb was Maya Angelou,” said Rev. Cecil Williams, from the glass pulpit which he had shared with Angelou more than 100 times over the past 50 years.
Excerpts from Angelou speeches at Glide were sprinkled through the program.
Excerpts from Angelou speeches at Glide were sprinkled through the program.
“She’s the reason I began wearing a dashiki and having the robes with kente cloth,” underscoring how fundamentally she had transformed his ministry in the 1960s during a celebration of her life Sunday, June 15 at Glide Memorial Church.
Lee's role model
To put that relationship in context, Angelou, 20 years after thinking the height of her ambition was to be a conductor on the San Francisco trolleys, was a close confidante and traveller with Malcolm X; a staff member of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Williams’ comrade in a revolutionary shift of a staid downtown Methodist church into a global beacon for human rights.
Guy Johnson reads his mother's poem, having the entire audience join him in repeating the title.
Guy Johnson reads his mother’s poem, having the entire audience join him in repeating the title.
Forty years after that, she was summoning Rep. Barbara Lee to her home to undergird the congresswoman after she had been the only member of the House to vote against authorizing the use of force in Iraq.
Angelou was a conductor of the African American freedom movement much like her San Francisco predecessor Mary Ellen Pleasant. Parallels in their lives include their early involvement in the city’s rowdy waterfront entertainment district, reaching across the continent to support freedom fighters and the willingness to risk their personal freedom for the sake of progress.
For Lee, Angelou was confirmation that a single mother could accomplish great things. “If she could do it, so could I!” The words of her first book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” told of a young girl so scarred by abuse that she lost her voice for several years.
So Angelou encouraged Lee to write her own first book and insisted that she premiere it on Angelou’s radio show.
Former Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. suggested that Angelou was already “directing the Almighty”, then dialed that back to “advising” using his own experience with her as a reference. “When I was mayor, every time I saw her, she would tell me what I was doing wrong, but she did it in such a loving way that you looked forward to the next time.”
Williams, despite extensive contact with celebrities for the past 50 years, still seemed genuinely in awe of Angelou. “She had the best food. When we were at her home in Winston-Salem, she served oxtails. I had never before had oxtails, but they were so good I was looking forward to some more.”
Another frequent guest was writer-singer-producer Valerie Simpson, who had participated in the nationally televised celebration of Angelou last weekend in Winston-Salem, N.C., closing the program with her song Remember Me.
Simpson flew out to San Francisco as well. Williams called on her for remarks, which led her to stride over to the keyboards and launch into Walking Around Heaven.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s