By Kate Aley and Charles Dickson
Celebrated American poet, author, performer, teacher, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died last month at the age of 86. Emerging from a poor upbringing in rural Arkansas to become an American icon, Angelou was a warrior for equality, tolerance, and peace. She urged that we always endeavour “to show ourselves at our best – as we understand the best to be to each other – and show ourselves with courage and with courtesy.”
Angelou was considered a cultural treasure by many. Her wisdom and insight born of years of struggle and perseverance made her a respected voice. Here, we are blessed to be surrounded by many such voices of human wisdom; voices that brim with insight from years of work, endurance, and kindness; voices from which we can learn much if we slow down long enough to listen. Voices of philosophy, learning ,and reason from our farmers, teachers, and community leaders. Voices of strength and compassion from our ministers, nurses, and stalwart volunteers. And the voices of experience and perspective of our elders and the keepers of our history – the stories of how we came to be living in this particular place that tell us who we are.
“What I would really like said about me is that I dared to love,” Angelou said almost 30 years ago. “By love, I mean a condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage and build bridges, and then to trust those bridges and cross the bridges in attempts to reach other human beings.”
We learn so much when we sincerely and humbly listen to our neighbours and fellow citizens, to learn from these voices of ageless human wisdom. We can aspire to emulate Maya Angelou in her quest to be “a representative of my race – of the human race. I have a chance to show how kind we can be, how intelligent and generous we can be. I have a chance to teach and to love and to laugh. I know that when I’m finished doing what I’m sent here to do, I will be called home and I will go home without any fear.”
Kate Aley (assistant editor) and Charles Dickson (editor) are with The Equity