In a week characterized by bad news, the announcement of polymath Maya Angelou's death was just another sad tale. Ms Angelou had a storied career as a teacher, activist, author, poet, and dancer. My personal favorite performance by her was her narration of a video at the Hayden Planetarium, a tour de force about the vastness of the cosmos, delivered in her inimitable voice. Sadly, I can't find any audio for this presentation, but it was a recording that I would listen to with delight every time I visited the place.
Ms Angelou combined the keen eye of a journalist with the humanity of a survivor... even when dealing with difficult subjects, she conveyed a love of life, a love of people. Her passing was, as she put it in her eulogy of Nelson Mandela, "expected, but still unwelcome"- after all, she made it to 86. Here is "His Day is Done", her panegyric to Mandela:
Maya Angelou's eulogy could have applied to herself in many ways- she never lost her grace in the face of difficulty. Her wisdom was hard-won, her humanity undiminished by the cynicism or despair that would have consumed many under similar circumstances.
I'm going to finish this post with a video from 1957's Miss Calypso album. Stone Cold Dead in the Market is a song about a woman who, after a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her husband, kills him in public. Given the details of her biography, I imagine that Ms Angelou was singing with some empathy, though she found a more felicitous release from the horrors of her youth:
Sleep well, Maya, you articulated truths that had been too long ignored, with a lyricism that never faltered.