Saturday, June 15, 2024

‘You can always come home’

April 30, 2023 by  
Filed under Feature

Remembering the motherly wisdom of Dr. Maya Angelou, as told to Oprah Winfrey.Remembering the motherly wisdom of Dr. Maya Angelou, as told to Oprah Winfrey.

We are celebrating Mother’s Day this month, and this issue of Black Image honors women in the Silver State who have committed themselves to raising the next generation of our people. 

The celebration calls to mind a 2011 conversation between media mogul Oprah Winfrey and cultural icon Dr. Maya Angelou, which served to promote Dr. Angelou’s book, “Mom & Me & Mom” 

Winfrey often spoke of Dr. Angelou as her mentor and the mother she always longed for — and this interview illuminates how to inspire mothers and their children toward a life of wonderful possibilities motivated by love. 

Dr. Angelou passed away in 2014, but her poetic wisdom — which always drove messages of a more united humanity based in conscious love — will live forever.

Oprah: Would you say that you have had a life full of pizzazz?

Dr. Angelou: Yes, I have.

Oprah: What can you say about being in your 80s?

Dr. Angelou: Do it if you can. If you have a choice—choose the 80s. If you have been caring for yourself, moderation in all things. And also don’t do too much moderation — moderate your moderation. When you get into your 80s and you find yourself still looking kind of alright. And people still say, “Hello — Hellooooo.” And you think, “Hmm, I am glad I got this far.”

Oprah: Tell me what you have learned about the aging process? I think I learned this from you. “Age with appreciation, grace and heart. And embrace it.” I see so many people around me in their 40s and 20s and they are trying to Botox themselves, change themselves — fighting with the aging process all the way. I remember you saying that, “Whatever age you are, think about the people who didn’t make it.”

Dr. Angelou: I don’t ever remember ever being anxious about getting older. I have always wanted to reach that other age—as far as I can remember. I thought if I could live to 20 years, it was going to be really wonderful. And then 30 — it would be a knockout. Every age I have been grateful. I talked to you about this years ago; being really grateful, constantly grateful. I wake up in the morning and I say, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you for this day. Thank you for that light coming through that window. Thank you that I’m breathing, thank you for the phone call that told me I had the job. Thank you for the phone call that told me I am no longer wanted at the job — thank you because I know the Lord had something better for me.”

Oprah: I remember being at my farm in Indiana and I was in the bathroom because there were people in my house. I closed the bathroom door and I was crying. I called you on the bathroom phone longing for your open empathy, and loving embrace. I don’t remember why I was crying, but I do remember what you said to me. “Stop it! Stop it right now. I want you to say thank you.” I was confused. I said, “You didn’t hear me. You didn’t hear what I said.” You said, “I want to hear you say it, right now. Say thank you.” I said, “I don’t know why I should say that, but thank you.” I asked you, “Why am I saying thank you?’ You told me, “Because you knew God had put a rainbow in the clouds for me.” That was life changing for me.

Dr. Angelou: Yes, so whenever and whatever hits you say, “Thank You, because something down the road is better for me.”

Oprah: Where did you get that?

Dr. Angelou: I got it from my grandmother [father’s mother], who raised me, and my mother Vivian Baxter [called “Lady” by Dr. Angelou].

Oprah: Dr. Maya Angelou describes her mother Vivian Baxter as a dynamic woman. A spitfire with a larger-than-life presence, but it’s someone Maya really didn’t get a chance to know until her teens. Unable to raise two young children on her own, Maya’s mother sent her and her brother, Bailey, to live with their grandmother in rural Arkansas. When Maya turned 13 she rejoined her mother in San Francisco, California. It took them some time to get to know each other. There was a lot of love between Maya and the woman she called, “Lady.” 

Dr. Angelou: Vivian Baxter loved me and encouraged me to develop courage in Stockton, California where she lived and died. There is a park named after her. She was that kind to everybody— whites, Blacks, Spanish, Native American, Asians—she was that kind. And so the newest park at that time in Stockton was called, “Lady Baxter Park.” So that is on one end of town. And there is a library on the other end of town named “Maya Angelou Southwest Library/ Bibliotheca.” It’s amazing, because the library was named after me because of Vivian Baxter. 

Oprah: She paved the way. 

Dr. Angelou: That’s right. Every time I dare to do a good thing—I am doing it in the name of my mother. 

Oprah: Maya Angelou says the lessons from her mother, Vivian Baxter, are highlighted in her memory like technicolor stars in a midnight sky. 

Dr. Angelou: My mother’s gifts of courage to me were both large and small. The latter are woven so subtly into the fabric of my psyche that I can hardly distinguish where she stops and I begin. 

Oprah: You say that your book, “Mom & Me & Mom,” has been written to examine some of the ways love heals and helps a person climb to impossible heights and rise from immeasurable depths. 

Dr. Angelou: Yes, it’s true. Love does that. Love liberates and the love from a parent: a mother or a father; and I mean love. Not sentimentality or mush, but true love. Love that gives you enough courage to say to somebody, “Don’t do that baby.” And the person knows that you are not preaching, but you are teaching. 

Oprah: Maya Angelou developed even a deeper connection with her mother when she became pregnant at 16 years of age. That was the birth of her only son, Guy, who is the greatest blessing of her life. When Maya told Vivian she was going to have a baby, Vivian didn’t get angry. Instead she welcomed the baby boy into their lives — even guiding the young mother as she struck out on her own. When Guy was only two months old, Maya moved out of the house. I love this story when your mother said to you when you were leaving: “Alright, you go, but remember this: When you cross my doorstep you have already been raised. With what you learned from your grandmother in Arkansas and what you have learned from me. You know the difference between right and wrong. Do right and don’t let anybody raise you from where you have already been raised. Know you will always have to make adjustments in love relationships, friends, and in society, and work. Don’t let anybody change your mind. And remember this: You can always come home.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Comment moderation is in use. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear shortly.