Maya Angelou dies: Appreciation by her friend Margaret Busby

‘It is out of death that life comes,’ said Maya

“What a woman!” “A very special lady, the original.” Since the hard-to-believe news of the death of Maya Angelou, people who did not know her personally have been sharing thoughts with me as a small measure of the connection she made, through her words as well as her presence.

The experiences she survived were painful enough to have engendered permanent bitterness or self-pity in most, yet Maya exuded positivity and a celebration of life. Typical of her capacity for optimism,  when she autographed a book, the inscription often contained the exclamation “Joy!”

She took strength from her grandmother, a major role model, and her mother, who instilled in her a self-confidence in the face of adversity, as well as from a stalwart band of sister-friends.

In turn, Maya was an inspiration to black women everywhere. That she graciously allowed her seminal poem “And still I Rise” to be echoed in the title of Doreen Lawrence’s autobiography was typical. Men, too, related strongly to her. As writer/broadcaster Marc Wadsworth says: “Maya’s autobiographies and poems inspired me as a young black man looking for an incisive answer to questions of racism, black politics and culture and the role of black women in feminism.”

Read more
Maya Angelou dies: ‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated’
Maya Angelou dead: Watch author recite powerful Nelson Mandela tribute poem  

Standing six feet tall, she seemed invincible in her youth. But she had her insecurities, as I found when I interviewed her 20 years ago, before her memoirs dealing with the deaths of Martin Luther King Jnr and Malcolm X, and her relationship with her mother. “The way I deal with any pain is to admit it – let it come. It is out of death that life comes,” she said

 

A meal with her meant wisdom imparted along with the wine, a tear as well as a laugh. And always a song, that could as easily be Bessie Smith’s “Gimme a Pigfoot (and a gallon of gin, Baby cos I’m in my sin)” as “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”.

Margaret Busby is an editor and writer who was a friend of Maya Angelou

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project