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Icons are symbols that exist to give us hope even in the darkest hours of desperation. They are testaments of God’s loving truth.

 

On April 4, 1928, a true American icon was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Marguerite Annie Johnson. She was known to the world as Maya Angelou.

 

Her testaments echoed from the Arkansas lowlands to the Fertile Crescent of Africa. She bestowed a warm wisdom, tough creased with the scars of life, yet still chiming with triumph. Her words fueled homilies that spilled from her battle-worn soul, infusing life upon pages. For 45 years, she soldiered through the depths of her creative expression, sewing tales of humanity. She was a journalist, a playwright, a poet and lecturer. She wrote articles, short stories, scripts, documentaries and autobiographies. She composed movie scores, produced and directed films, danced and crafted screenplays. A scholar and voracious reader, she was nominated for Pulitzer Prizes. She was an author, professor, lecturer and actress. A prostitute, a streetcar conductor, a stripper and a teen mother, she was not perfect. She was a survivor. She was a groundbreaker. And most importantly, she was free. She dared us to mend our clipped wings, loose our feet and claim the sky as our own. She encouraged us to let our dreams reach beyond ourselves. Beyond our fears, our limitations, our insecurities, our inhibitions, our misconceptions. She gave us words that challenged us to rise above those ill-suited truths about this cruel, kithless world. She provided anecdotes. She spun yarn. She knew the fearful shrill that raged from the bound bird’s cage. She even knew the song in its heart. A being divined to fly freely to the edges of the earth, yet conditioned to stay grounded from the start. She knew she was phenomenal and had a hearty laugh when she thought of herself. She was never afraid to ask for a cool drink of water on the pulse of a humid afternoon. She told us to endure hate with self-confidence. To look our conquerors squarely in their eyes. For she was a true visionary…and even after she takes her final sighs…still, like air, she’ll rise.

 

Matthew Bruce, O.M.

Maya Angelou