News / Arts & Entertainment

New York City’s Harlem Mourns, Cherishes Maya Angelou

The Apollo Theater marquee in Harlem paid tribute to Maya Angelou. (Adam Phillips/ VOA)
The Apollo Theater marquee in Harlem paid tribute to Maya Angelou. (Adam Phillips/ VOA)
Adam Phillips
Poet, author and human rights activist Maya Angelou, who died Wednesday at the age of 86, was considered by many a literary giant.  But to residents of Harlem, a largely African American New York neighborhood where she sometimes lived, the author of “Why The Caged Bird Sings” and other works is especially mourned.  

While Maya Angelou received dozens of awards and honorary degrees, she came from the humblest of beginnings in the racially segregated South - having worked as a streetcar conductor, fry cook and calypso performer among other jobs during her youth.   

On a city bus riding through Harlem, Rayna Clay-Cuffee remembered Angelou from a half century ago, when they were both nightclub singers.  
 
"And then the years went by, and then I was there when she spoke at the inauguration for [President] Clinton," she said. "So she’s been around a long time.  She’s a wonderful woman, extremely intelligent, and she used her intelligence for the world."

Joanathan, who also was riding the bus, admired Angelou for her wisdom and compassion.  He said that while her writing often expressed the challenges she and other African Americans faced in their struggle for equality, she felt an underlying bond to all peoples.

“And they can coexist in one.  People always make the mistake of saying ‘that race did that’ or ‘that one ain’t no good.’  But we are one human race. And that’s what she understood," said Joanathan.

On 125th Street, Harlem’s busy main thoroughfare, “Lord Harrison,” a hip hop artist, sold his CDs to passersby.  He credited Maya Angelou’s poetry and public acclaim with helping to pioneer his musical genre.

“She paved the way!  Without her doing her thing and opening the way and ‘bustin’ with the moves,’ as we like to say, hip hop wouldn’t be invented.  It wouldn’t have happened.  She did it!  She is a true American icon," he said.

Nearby, the marquee of the famed Apollo Theater, where the Jackson Five, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and other stars played, noted in big black letters Maya Angelou's passing. 

In-house historian Billy Mitchell, who has worked there for 49 years, remembers meeting her.     

“What a regal lady she was!  Very graceful.  That beautiful smile.  ‘How are you, ​
Billy Mitchell, the Apollo Theater in-house historian. (Adam Phillips / VOA)Billy Mitchell, the Apollo Theater in-house historian. (Adam Phillips / VOA)
x
Billy Mitchell, the Apollo Theater in-house historian. (Adam Phillips / VOA)
Billy Mitchell, the Apollo Theater in-house historian. (Adam Phillips / VOA)
young man?’  I could have melted right there," he said. "Because I meet so many people here and there are just a few that really make me feel a little strange and giddy and groupie-like.  And she was one of those people that did that for me, absolutely. ​"We all adored Maya.  Her words made us feel proud. She understood our struggle.  She understood what it was like to be poor and to be hungry and she made something of herself.  Young kids are still reciting her poetry: ‘and still I rise.  I rise.  I rise.'"

Plans for Maya Angelou’s funeral have not been released.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

Country-pop singer, Lizzie Sider sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to perform songs from her new album, “Butterfly,” and to talk about her anti-bullying tour.

Blogs

African Music Treasures