“I have written a poem for a woman who rides a bus in New York City. She’s a maid, she has two shopping bags. When the bus stops abruptly, she laughs. If the bus stops slowly, she laughs. I thought, ‘Mmm, a-ha.’ Now, if you don’t know black features, you may think she’s laughing. But she wasn’t laughing. She was simply extending her lips and making a sound. I said, ‘Oh, I see.’ That’s that survival apparatus. Now, let me write about that to honor this woman who helps us to survive.” Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (2016) dir. Rita Coburn & Bob Hercules
Malcolm X on his last visit to Accra had announced a desire to create a foundation he called the Organization of Afro-American Unity. His proposal included taking the plight of the African-Americans to the United Nations and asking the world council to intercede on the part of beleaguered blacks. The idea was so stimulating to the community of African-American residents that I persuaded myself I should return to the States to help establish the organization.
We all read Malcolm’s last letter to me.
I was shocked and surprised when your letter arrived but I was also pleased because I only had to wait two months for this one whereas previously I had to wait almost a year. You see I haven’t lost my wit. (smile)
Your analysis of our people’s tendency to talk over the head of the masses in a language that is too far above and beyond them is certainly true. You can communicate because you have plenty of (soul) and you always keep your feet firmly rooted on the ground.
I am enclosing some articles that will give you somewhat of an idea of my daily experiences here and you will then be better able to understand why it sometimes takes me a long time to write. I was most pleased to learn that you might be hitting in this direction this year. You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful woman. You know that I will always do my utmost to be helpful to you in any way possible so don’t hesitate.
Signed Your brother Malcolm
(Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s memoir A Song Flung Up To Heaven)