Poet Maya Angelou speak Dann DulinWhy She Never lets A possibility to Talk about AIDS Pass

"Oh, mine dear," Maya Angelou says softly, "so countless freinds are dead.So countless loved friends space dead since of AIDS. My mind just runs end the perform which seemsto it is in unending. It"s simply a devstating dragon breathing flame that burns out totality neighborhoods,whole families.

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"I think some world think the a human being with AIDS is himself or it s her the victim and so it every stopsthere. It is never so. It"s a little like marriage. Two human being never marry, familiesmarry, and friends marry. Unexpectedly there"s a community married. Well, as soon as a human is illand/or dies, for this reason many world are lessened, households are crippled, and also their complete strength is no thereanymore. Therefore everybody hurts—the romantic partners and the business partners. Once oneperson dies, everything has to it is in rearranged and you deserve to never acquire it back. Whew, the affects everybody," she claims with a sigh. She words hurl such emotionally power, girlfriend feel choose you"ve been hitin the stomach.

Mesmerized by this commemorated author"s deep, rich, commanding, and also nurturing voice. Ns feel muchlika a son crouched at the hem that his mother"s dress as we chat comfortably in she homey office which,indeed, offered to it is in her house some six years ago. The residence is an expansive brick early american estateembraced through tall, sprawling trees. Angelou has actually lived below in Winston-Salem, north Carolina, since1981, once she to be asked to be the very first Reynolds Professor that American researches at Wake forest University.

A couple of minutes previously I had actually arrived at this place and was warmly greeted by Angelou"s two super-efficientassistants, Ms. Berry and also Ms. Burditte (Southern etiquette bring away precedence and very first names space not used).The office room is component living room, part dining room, and part storage area—possibly supplied asa bedroom in ~ one time. The blue- and gray-striped wallpaper, draft to appear as flowing curtains,provides a bright and also dizzying effect. Awards and honors elegant the walls and a disco ball hangs in acorner (not in motion) complete with neon light, which was a gift. Off to one side, coffee and anample array of pastries are nicely laid out atop a cherrywood table—true southerly hospitality.Angelou"s main headquarters, in addition to her assistants" offices, are in the next room behind theclosed door.

"Mr. Dulin, would certainly you please stand once she start and deal with her as Doctor?" asks Ms. Burditte, referringto Angelou, as I pour myself a cup of tea. Take away aback, i answer affirmatively, then query whetherAngelou"s name is express Ange-loo or Ange-low. It"s Ange-low. Beforeboth assistants leave and return to their offices, ns inquire about a bathroom. Once there, v somebemusement, I discover that the small, nondescript room consists of a pair the luscious, pure white bathtub towelsmonogrammed in sunshine yellow with the name, Maya Angelou.

Returning to the office, ns remember Clinton"s Inaugural in 993, when Angelou introduced her city On thePulse the the Morning (she is the 2nd poet in U.S. Background to have the respect of speaking at a Presidential Inaugural; Robert Frost spoke at Kennedy"s in 196). The critical stanza still sticks the end inmy mind:

Here, on the pulse the this brand-new day,You may have actually the grace to look up and also outAnd into your sister"s eyes,And right into your brother"s face,Your country,And speak simplyVery simplyWith hope—Good morning.

As i relive the emotionally chills i felt watching she on television that day in 1993, the door opensand Angelou graciously enters, escorted by Ms. Burditte who makes introductions and also then exits.Dr. Angelou"s radiant smile and shining spirit wash over me. No sooner space we introducedthan she breaks right into a spiritual. Feeling slightly in awe, ns cannot remember the reason she beganto sing. After the impromptu performance, Ms. Burditte peeks in and also asks Angelou if she would certainly likea glass that wine. "Since the sun"s over the yard"s arm, yes. Give thanks to you," Angelou replies.Ms. Burditte leaves. "That was an expression my grandfather used come say," Angelou explainsas she again beams that broad, reassuring grin.

Dr. Angelou is pull in skilled attire: and also elegant three-piece powder blue pantsuit, a long,flowing gold necklace, and also gold hoop earrings. Though stylishly garbed and majestic in stature, sheunabashedly wears just a basic pair of swimming-pool-blue flip flops on her feet. Interesting.The contrasts in this Renaissance woman"s attire disclose the fascinating confluence of the aristocracy andwisdom juxtaposed through her casual over-the-back-fence charm.

She settles into a society chair and, in passing, complains around the source canal that she had had done yesterday. Climate she proceeds on to the subject of AIDS.

"I became conscious of AIDS long prior to it to be an epidemic. A friend of mine in new York had actually herpes,and we were talking about it. In an attempt to uncover out much more about herpes, I visited the library,which I carry out with everything," she explains. Her study turned up a cite of this brand-new and mysterious immune deficiency ailment. She phoned her friend and asked him if he had heard about this.His reply: "I"ve heard something around it, but it isn"t something we have actually to worry about." Shesums up, "It to be that long ago."

Angelou has lost many friends come AIDS. How does she address those losses? "I don"t knowif I execute really," she states tenderly. "I"m always about a second away indigenous weeping. And mygrandmother taught me to be very careful around crying. She said, "Sister, remember, the more youcry, the less you pee. And pee is much much more important to her body functions...,"" she trailsoff laughing. "Then ns married a paramount chef in West Africa whose motto was, "Royalty doesnot weep in the street." over the years it"s been an extremely rare to check out me crying in public.But mine tears are always a 2nd away when I think of mine friends who"ve passed away from AIDS."

After these comments, immediately and also unannounced, she recites native Shakespear"s Sonnet XXX:

When to the sessions that sweet silent thoughtI summon up remembrance of things past,I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,And through old woes new wail my dear times" waste.Then I can drown an eye, unus"d come flow,For priceless friends hid in death"s dateless night....

Savoring every word, Angelou pauses a moment, then shows with a lilt and hint that sadness: "It"shorrible. Several of these friends were so close and adjusted my life." anytime she is reminded that these world in public, she nods neatly. "But then i go to mine room," she reveals."And I"m suffused through the tears that their absence from my life. And the pain they wentthrough. That"s really"—she searches because that a word—"shit. Pardon me. I"mnot a cursing person, really. Commonly I am it s okay without it. However with this, there"s hardlyany indigenous that far better describes the which is of no use." She sit forward and crosses her ankles.And to uncover balance you have a fabricated leg do to stand in lieu that the one missing. Butnothing does, of course."

I examine her guru-like face—so regal, yet so woman-next-door. Deeply focused, Angelou takesa tissue and wipes she brow of beads the sweat and also continues. "I mean, those who think castle aren"taffected by AIDS, room affected. Their stays are lessened. a choreographer in brand-new York dies of AIDS and also somebody in Tulsa, Oklahoma, could say, "I never knew everyone who had AIDS."But his or she life has actually been lessened since there was some art, dance, chereography the couldhave enriched their life yet won"t now." for this reason they might say, "Well, i can"t miss out on something i neverhad." I"m sorry, yet you can. You"re no as full and rich, and tall and big and juicy as youcould have been since somebody died prior to time."

Moving on native death and also speaking about passing to spirit, Angelou comments the she loves all the art and visuals that depict heaven. Yet when request what she think happens after death, she replies: "Thatdepends top top what time of the job you questioning me." She smiles coquettishly, and we laugh. "I havesee that if you take it a fall fo water indigenous the ocean and also put the under a microscopic lense you uncover everythingthat"s in the ocean is in the drop that water. Every aspect that"s a whale, or a crab, is in that drop of water. So I have a emotion that we come from the creator. The poet claims "trailing wispsof glory"—and ns think us go earlier to the creator. That"s my feeling. And we go ago as adrop that water is went back to the ocean. And it mingles v something else and it comes out again."

Her wisdom originates from deep soul searching. This American original has actually lived many lifetimes.She to be raped at age eight by she mother"s beau. The male hung himself. She didn"t speak for five years. "I assumed my voice eliminated the man. And so ns refused to speak," she has actually said inmany interviews. She worked for a brief time as a madam and a prostitute, came to be a mommy at seventeen,and wove a ceiling of experience as a waitress, actress, singer, playwright, director, and the editor of anEgyptian newspaper. She even taught dance in Tel Aviv and also Rome.

In the 1960s, Angelou was asked by Dr. Young name Luther King, Jr., to be the northern Coordinator for theSouthern Christian leadership Conference. In addition, she was the very first black woman admitted toHollywood"s director Guild. Angelou speaks six languages, and also is the receiver of many honorary degrees and awards. She has been nominated because that a Pulitzer Prize and also a Tony Award.What an completed life! Is there something she"d prefer to perform that she hasn"t done yet?"Oh, my yes," she says emphatically, v a twinkle in she ambrosial brown eyes. "There isthe book I"ve yet to write, the poem I"ve yet to write, the enjoy the meal I"ve however to cook, the lovely friendsI"ve yet to meet. There"s constantly something come do."

As Angelou tastes her wine, ns ask: "Why has the AIDS epidemic appeared at this suggest in history?She answers: "I think it"s human carelessness. Ns think it"s greed. Public health inthis country. And also because the was an excellent and it didn"t call attention to itslf, we made light of it.The world said, "Cut the budget. Reduced the budget." Is that dumb?" she asks as though she had actually a negative taste in she mouth. "Tuberculosis is top top the rise, hpatitis is on the rise, mosquitovirus, Ebola, and so on. If greed were no in it and also if true intelligence—not intellect oreducation yet true intelligence—were at the helm, we would not only see windy health back in ourcountry but we would certainly be seroius about working with other countries. We room a global nation.Everybody from the barrio or the shacks the West Virginia, native the ghetto or Beverly Hills—everybodycomes in contact with every bacteria and also virus around."

She sips she wine and returns come the inquiry at hand. "I don"t check out that the AIDS epidemic hasany an excellent spiritual ultrameaning indigenous without. No, it"s ours fault. We are a country of reactors to action. Us should have learned native the Boston Tea Party. In orderto adjust an unfair tax on tea, people boarded cargo ships, take it the tea, and also spilled it into the Boston harbor. That taught those that were selling the tea a lesson. The vendors said,"Ooh, sorry, why didn"t girlfriend tell us?" use that come AIDS research. As soon as enough people stand up and say, "That will do," what will happen?"

Without lacking a beat, she leans forward and also continues. "Let me tell you something. I freshly addressed a team of executives and also filmmakers. They payment me a the majority of money to speak tothem." She giggles. "After i greeted them, and also told a joke, the group was emotion relaxed.Then i said, "You need to stop flooding the record market, the television, and the movie houseswith filth. You recognize that. You have to stop. I understand that numerous of you will certainly say,"We"re giving the world what lock want." However, if there room 2,000 of you here, there are at least a hundreds who room dying because that a cigarette. However even in this structure which girlfriend own, youcan"t smoke. Girlfriend can"t also smoke in the lobby. You need to go outside. Now, tenyears ago, or probably fifteen, the tobacco service providers said, "We"re providing the civilization what they want.Not just do they desire cigarettes, they"re addicted come nicotine." but somebody said, "That will do." Everyone thought you can"t break this multibillion dollar business."She pauses for dramatic effect. "Oh?" she says wryly, through a sly and knowing glance."But it happened since somebody said, "That will do," and also meant it." She straightens increase a bit and also cuddles back more into she chair. "Take that, I would certainly suggest, together a lesson."

Angelou summons Ms. Burditte, that pours much more white wine into the long-stemmed frosted crystal glass.

Throughout ours visit, as soon as a question is asked, Angelou relates stories pertinent come the topic.It"s ideal to stay silent and permit her an individual insights to flow naturally.

Now she continues: "People might say, "I want something," but they require to discover out if lock reallywant it. They must ask: "Am ns willing to do anything to acquire it?"" She recalls thetime when she was fifteen and also decided to come to be a mountain Francisco street automobile conductor. "I wantedthe job since conductors wore uniforms and also they had actually hats through bills and also they had the money changer.Tick-tick-tick-qwik. It just looked "it" come me," she says. She went down to applyfor the job, however the office employees wouldn"t offer her one application.

She walk home and her mom asked, "Do you recognize why castle didn"t give you one application?"

Maya replied, "Yes, since I "m a Negro." "That"s right," stated her mother. "But perform youwant it?"

"Yes, I desire it." Angelou replied.

"Do girlfriend really desire it? Think about it," claimed her mother.

"Yes!" stated Angelou adamently.

"All right. You go down there tomorrow morning. You be there prior to the secretaries, walk inwith them, and also ask because that an application. As soon as they don"t give it come you, sit down. Take it a good book to read and also sit there. I"ll offer you money, so you can go to and also havea exorbitant lunch. But don"t you leave until the office workers leave for lunch. And also yoube earlier there once they get ago from lunch—if you want it." Angelou imitates her motherwith an exact bravura.

Leaning forward as if preparing to tell a secret, Angelou goes on: "About the 3rd day, ns didn"t feelI want the job any more." She says in a hushed tone, through an embarrassed, girlish voice, together if her mother were standing simply a couple of feet away, "But i couldn"t call my mommy that. ns sat there through the secretaries, with few of whom ns had been in school. The clerks insulted me; they referred to as meeverything. Here"s this black girl sitting by herself analysis the Russian writers—Distoevsky,Tolstoy, Gorki—and every day I"d go home shaking. My mommy would host me, hug me, kiss me,fix my favourite foods. She"d ask, "You still desire it?" I would shout, "Yes!" aggressivelyand easily to hide mine true feelings."

Finally one office worker did sell Angelou one application. When asked her age, Angelou lied and also said she to be ninteen. "I was six feet tall, and white world don"t know what black people"s eras areanyway," she chuckles. And as employment suffer she said she had been the chauffeur because that a womanin the South named Mrs. Annie Henderson. "My grand mother!" she whispers, laughing. "I hadhardly ever been in a car. I lied. I simply lied like whatever to gain that job."

About a week later, she was called to begin the job. She to be the an initial African-American streetcarconductor in san Francisco.

She acquired fitted for she uniform and also began her shift at 3 in the morning. Her mother would wakeher up, and also draw she bath; Angelou would dress, and her mother would drive behind the streetcar, with apistol on the vehicle seat next to her, till it to be daybreak. "She"d honk, throw me a kiss, say, "Bye, Baby," then journey off," Angelou says wistfully.

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"I tell that story to remind myself and every one of us the if we really desire something, us hardlysleep till we gain it. Ns think if we construed the power of AIDS, not just to kill one person, however to desvastate a family, a community, a nation, climate we would certainly spend more time trying to obtain moneyfor research and a cure." She glances down, then looks up v a faint smile and says:"if we really wanted it."

As our conference concludes, ns follow Angelou right into her exclusive office, whichis splashed in colors of reassuring peach and also off-white. On her desk one of the secretaries has opened and displayed a note from Phyllis Diller, along with a mid-size painting Diller has done.The note is a thank you because that Angelou"s contribution to Phyllis"s A&E biography episode.The two had showed up on the famous Purple Onion in san Francisco earlier in the 1960s, whereby Angelouwas a featured singer.

Sitting down at she desk, Angelou returns to her last thought about creating what us want."We"re in the business of changing something all the time. I"m being adjusted even as I speak to you.My muscles space being changed, and also my eyesight is gift changed. The essential thing is come bein love v the search for truth, no in love through a certain position. Be prepared to give up anyposition at a moment"s notice. It is danger to discover one method and call all the others false—"No,this is the method I am and I am just this,"" she says, mockingly. "I"m taken aback when people walkup to me and tell me they are Christians. My an initial response is—Already?"

The phone call rings, and her secretaries start to mill about—my time is up. However Agnelou isn"tquite finished. "Nobody is anything every the time. To be lively is to be in search and also torealize "I"m in process,"" she says, her elbows relaxing on the desk with she hands folded. Shelooks at me intently. "We have to never pass up a chance . This is my fourth interviewout of 5 or 6 I will perform today and also in at least three of castle I"ll speak something around AIDS.Never permit a possibility pass. Never"