The passing of Maya Angelou, a powerful prophet, has left a hole in our hearts and pain in our souls. During the past few days, we have heard powerful stories describing the immeasurable impact that Dr. Angelou had on the lives of millions around the world. Those who knew Dr. Angelou share beautiful accounts of their experiences with her as a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and a wise elder. I never met this "Phenomenal Woman" in person, but I still weep at her passing, knowing that we will miss her prophetic female voice in our cultural landscape.
Her life journey in the Jim Crow South was filled with the disruptions of racism, sexism, and family violence. It is a testament to the power of the human spirit to survive and to thrive. Her childhood experience of sexual abuse at the hands of a "loved one" can only be described as a profound tragedy. Yet Dr. Angelou's story is one of resilience. Through her prophetic words, Dr. Angelou opened our eyes and called out the social systems, which allow for such abuse to occur in the first place.
In these chaotic times, we often lament the need for more prophets like Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi to guide our path. I submit that we have also been honored and blessed by the powerful prophet, Dr. Angelou. She is one who will stand tall in the eyes of millions of women who yearn for a voice of courage and hope in the midst of the overwhelming violence that is being waged against women and girls all over the world.
Dr. Angelou often shared that courage is the most important virtue because, without it, nothing else can be experienced consistently. Indeed, she demonstrated such courage in her teaching, her writing, and her living.
She knew what it meant to be a person of dignity, which she claimed was the very basis for being a representative of the human race. In an interview with Melissa Harris-Perry just two years ago, responding to a question about the incivility and disrespect demonstrated by candidates in the recent elections, Dr. Angelou asked, "What would our nation be like if we dared to be intelligent and allowed our intelligence to dictate our actions?"
At the closing of her interview Dr. Angelou said this, "I write and I speak because I have something to say. I pray that whatever I have to say will encourage the coming of what you call the millennium. Then we really will have enough courage to be courageous."
Dr. Angelou, we are listening and we salute you as a "Phenomenal Woman" who we claim as a prophet of our times. You have and will influence women and men for many generations to come. Rest in peace.
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo is the Executive Minister of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries.
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