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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Celebrating Maya in Charlotte

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The Maya Angelou Stamp Dedication ceremony went superbly well and it was a joy and honor to witness and participate in the event. Dr. Esper Hayes, who organized the event along with Beatrice Cox, is doing great work as the founder and CEO of the Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections (ESPER). Her organization, which was organized in 1988, is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the collecting of stamps and philatelic material depicting people and events related to the African Diaspora.

It was a treat to pay tribute to Maya on the same roster as Dr. Hayes; Cox, Director of the North Carolina chapter of ESPER; City of Charlotte Mayor, Daniel Clodfelter; the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Praise Dancers; Postmaster of Charlotte, Le Gretta Roass-Rawlins; Dr. Paxton Hughes; and emcee for the event, WBTV News Anchor, Brigida Mack (who gave me one of the most fun and energetic introductions I think I've ever had).

As everyone spoke and performed, I was reminded of the sheer genius, gifts, and reach of Maya's thoughts and work. After all, she was a writer, dancer, singer, poet, actress, director, civil rights activist, professor, and mother. The work she accomplished in her lifetime is breathtaking and magnificently inspiring. Most people don't realize that she directed the moving film, Down in the Delta,, starring Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes.

Maya's legacy will influence generations and generations to come. She is the ancestor that she talks about in her work who speak to us, teach us, and direct us to higher ground.

Thank you Dr. Maya Angelou for your words, your work, and your love.

Here's the poem that I performed at the event. Maya wrote it for and read it at the Million Man March on October 16, 1995.

Million Man March Poem

The night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.

Under a dead blue sky on a distant beach,
I was dragged by my braids just beyond your reach.
Your hands were tied, your mouth was bound,
You couldn't even call out my name.
You were helpless and so was I,
But unfortunately throughout history
You've worn a badge of shame.

I say, the night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark
And the walls have been steep.

But today, voices of old spirit sound
Speak to us in words profound,
Across the years, across the centuries,
Across the oceans, and across the seas.
They say, draw near to one another,
Save your race.
You have been paid for in a distant place,
The old ones remind us that slavery's chains
Have paid for our freedom again and again.

The night has been long,
The pit has been deep,
The night has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.

The hells we have lived through and live through still,
Have sharpened our senses and toughened our will.
The night has been long.
This morning I look through your anguish
Right down to your soul.
I know that with each other we can make ourselves whole.
I look through the posture and past your disguise,
And see your love for family in your big brown eyes.

I say, clap hands and let's come together in this meeting ground,
I say, clap hands and let's deal with each other with love,
I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference,
Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,
Let us come together and revise our spirits,
Let us come together and cleanse our souls,
Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,
Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,
Courtesy into our bedrooms,
Gentleness into our kitchen,
Care into our nursery.

The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain
We are a going-on people who will rise again.

And still we rise.


10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I missed it! I wish I had been there, I have not seen you perform or read in years.
You don't realize the joy it gave me and how proud I am to have such a talented daughter. Was Gi Gi there? I hope she got to witness all of the historic wonders presented at the celebration. Tell her to call me when it is convenient for her and she feels like talking for a moment with her MaDear, I will love it!
I did not know that Maya directed, she was a multitalented person indeed and so are you. (smile)

love
MaDear

Alicia Benjamin said...

Thanks MaDear! I wish you could have been there also. It was fun and moving to witness the other presentations and to perform. Yes, Queen Mother Maya was a renaissance woman -- she did it all! I'll have Gigi call you.

Love,
Alicia

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for sharing! Proud of you for your participation in the celebration of Maya's tribute, she was indeed a talented lady. I have to go get her stamp. I would have loved to have been there. I know Gigi was proud of you!

Auntie T

Alicia Benjamin said...

Thanks Auntie! It was a great event and I learned even more about the magnificent Maya Angelou during the event. I was so honored to be a part of it. I sure wish you could have been there too.

Love,
Lisa

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