Phenomenal woman Dr Maya Angelou leaves a towering legacy

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De. Maya Angelou poses with Samara Brown in 2002 at the opening of the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem, New York.

By Carmen Glover

While working as an associate editor for a Brooklyn-based newspaper in 2002, I went to Harlem, New York, to cover the opening of Hue-Man Bookstore, an African-American establishment that was the brainchild of the ex-wives of three former New York Knicks players, including Rita Ewing, the ex-wife of Patrick Ewing. I entered the store and saw rap mogul Jay-Z in a corner talking to then-Knick Charles Smith, while late actor Ossie Davis chatted to his wife Ruby Dee and actor Wesley Snipes held court with his Asian date. And then I saw her. Dr. Maya Angelou was seated regally on a stool, holding a cane, her eyes shrouded by a pair of dark glasses.

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Dr. Maya Angelou shares a light moment with her only child, son Guy Johnson

I approached her and introduced myself. Then I explained that I just left my daughter upstairs at the Magic Johnson Theatre with friends, to my chagrin. “Go and get her,” Dr. Angelou told me in her rich, firm voice. I didn’t need to be told twice and my daughter, Samara, squealed, “Really?” when I told her who was downstairs. After shaking Samara’s hand and agreeing to pose for a picture, Dr. Angelou issued instructions to my daughter: “Hold your back straight,” she said, as my daughter complied with alacrity, while the photographer who accompanied me on the assignment snapped the picture.

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Dr. Angelou and her mother, whom Angelou said told her “We’re going to have a happy baby” when the teenaged Angelou told her she was pregnant but not in love with the father.

Many people from all walks of life no doubt have personal stories of the moment when they met Dr. Angelou and how enthralled they were by her poise, wit, grace and spirit. Dr. Angelou described being a mother as a blessing and as the world mourns the passing of this literary icon it is important to remember her son and his family in our prayers. Her son, Guy B. Johnson, released a statement on Wednesday morning which read:

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“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8 a.m., EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey last year, he said through a video that he “grew up in her light.” Angelou gave birth to her only son when she was 17. They lived in several cities including Accra in Ghana, Cairo in Egypt, New York and San Francisco.

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President Barack Obama gently kissed Dr. Angelo’s cheek after awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom .

Dr. Maya Angelou lived a life that was exceptional in its scope, vast in its reach and profound in its impact on her admirers and students of literature across the globe. The first volume of her autobiographical series “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is required reading in schools across the United States, and it details her early life, her childhood trauma and her indomitable spirit that defied challenges and abuse.

She inspired a legion of ardent fans with the lyrical texture of her poetry, the rhythmic flow of her words, the compelling prose of her novels and the sage wisdom inherent in her counsel. She spoke about the joys she experienced as a mother to her only son and the determination that propelled her to achieve professional success.

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Media maven Oprah Winfrey has described Dr. Angelou as a “mother, mentor and friend,” often citing her words of wisdom and the solace they have brought her over the years.

And along the way she inspired others to follow her path, or carve their own, never losing sight of what is important. When she delivered her rousing inaugural poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, we were riveted with wonder, admiration and pride at the beauty evoked by her voice and words.

Media maven Oprah Winfrey has spoken lovingly about Dr. Angelou and shared stories about their friendship, while inviting her to share her wisdom on various episodes of her show over the years. And so as we grieve, it is important to celebrate the life and legacy of a woman who lived fearlessly, powered on by a burning passion to achieve. In a statement about her death U.S. President said:.

American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in Washington DC, 20th January 1993. (Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem ‘On the Pulse of Morning’ at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in Washington DC, 20th January 1993. (Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time-a brilliant writer, fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life Maya was many things-an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer, but above all, she was a storyteller and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their meaning amidst the clouds and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves.”

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Yes, Dr. Angelou caused us to aim higher, to reach for more. Born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, she went on to create literary works that resonate across the world but she was not exclusively artistic. She contributed to the civil rights movement by working for both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. She later taught at Wake Forest University and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, the National Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008. During her youth, she was a calypso singer and she claimed Caribbean heritage through her paternal grandfather, who hailed from Trinidad & Tobago.

Brutally raped at age 7, by her mother’s boyfriend, Dr. Angelou stopped speaking after the culprit was found murdered when she revealed his identity to her family. “I thought my voice killed him,” she explained about her self-imposed, five-year silence after the traumatic episode. But her spirit drove her to success and her thirst for knowledge refused to be quenched. As a result, people all over the world were blessed to see or hear her recite some of her powerful works including her spectacular poems: “Phenomenal Woman,” and “I Rise.” In her last Twitter post on Friday, May 23, 2014, she wrote: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” In expressing his grief at her death, former President Bill Clinton said:

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Former President Bill Clinton had a long friendship with Dr. Angelou.

“With Maya Angelou’s passing, America has lost a national treasure. The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace. I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of “On the Pulse of Morning” at my first inaugural and even more for the years of friendship,” He also sent his “deepest sympathies” to her son.

Winfrey, in her statement, covered the trajectory and nuanced complexity of their relationship, which spanned years and experiences that dripped with meaning.

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“I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister and friend since my 20s. The world knew her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. She won three Grammys, spoke six languages. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”

For many of us, Dr. Angelou’s enduring legacy will be the template she left that defines resilience: the ability to get up and rebound despite struggles, obstacles and disappointment. Her attitude showed the conviction of someone who had things to do, someone whose ambitions and determination propelled continuous movement, someone who set clearly defined goals and tackled them with grit and courage.

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Dr. Angelou has been called back home to rest in the arms of her heavenly father but for us who remain, it’s important to take the time to read her works, understand her life and make an effort to emulate her ambition, drive and refusal to offer excuses instead of being completely focused on achieving our goals. Rest in peace, Maya Angelou, your life and legacy will live on through us–OnPointPress.net.

Carmen Glover is an award-wining journalist and editorial director of OnPointPress.net. Follow her and OnPointPress.net on Twitter @OnPointPress_.

Literary icon Dr Maya Angelou dies at 86

Dr. Maya Angelou passed away this morning May, 28 2014.

Dr. Maya Angelou passed away this morning May, 28 2014.

By Carmen Glover

Dr Maya Angelou, revered award-winning‎ author, professor and director died at age 86 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.

Dr. Maya Angelou will be missed by all her fans, friends, and family.

Dr. Maya Angelou will be missed by all her fans, friends, and family.

According to WBLS Radio, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines confirmed that Dr Angelou’s body was discovered by her caretaker on Wednesday morning. No additional information was provided.

Stay tuned to OnPointPress.net for full and complete coverage of the remarkable life and powerful legacy of the late literary legend, who media mogul Oprah Winfrey has lovingly called her “other mother.”

Dr. Angelou was a calypso singer as a young woman, and claimed Caribbean heritage though her paternal grandfather, who hailed from Trinidad and Tobago.–OnPointPress.net–

Treating trauma early can prevent extreme actions from sufferers

William Kellibrew makes a point.

William Kellibrew IVmakes a point.

By Carmen Glover

As more details emerge about Aaron Alexis’ background, the relationship between his life unraveling due to his sporadic treatment for mental health issues and trauma, which he allegedly suffered in many ways, is receiving more attention. Although all victims of trauma do not resort to murderous rampages such as Alexis’ attacks at the Navy Yard in the nation’s capital, many trauma sufferers quickly admit that they are emotionally vulnerable and susceptible to erratic conduct and thoughts which, unless properly treated, can lead to unpredictable behavior.

At a training held at the New York offices of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA) in conjunction with Project Hope, mental health professionals partnered with a national spokesperson and survivor of trauma to discuss the importance of treating trauma. Under the theme: “Trauma-Informed Care: A Change in Perspective,” Dr. Joan Gillece, Jill A. Sergott and William Kellibrew IV, SAMSHA ‘s National Center for Trauma Informed Care (NCTIC) consultants delved into the issue, providing tips for treating trauma sufferers. Kellibrew, a survivor of horrific childhood trauma, shared his story.

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Williams Kellibrew IV

According to SAMHSA’s literature, “Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically and emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s physical, social, emotional or spiritual well-being.”  One of the most important shifts in treating trauma sufferers, said Dr Gillece, is to ask “What happened to you, instead of what’s wrong with you?” She said that using the approach that people exhibit trauma due to something that they experienced allows those who are providing care to embrace a new sense of understanding when interacting with that population, That shift in perspective, she said, will strengthen the bond between the caregiver and the client, leading to better results. Sergott talked extensively about her background working with children who experienced trauma from very young ages. She cited the importance of utilizing strategies that may seem unorthodox, but which allow the children to feel comfortable and safe.

But the most compelling speaker of the day was Kellibrew, whose story was profiled on the Oprah Winfrey Show in an episode when he appeared with Dr. William Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint. Kellibrew  recounted being a scared 10-year-old in 1983 when his mother’s boyfriend shot her repeatedly in the face, killing her and his 12-year-old brother. Kellibrew said he “prayed” and “begged” for his life, prompting the shooter to spare him, before killing himself.  The following day, Kellibrew’s witnessed his grandfather shooting his next door neighbor. Kellibrew said all of that happened when he was grappling with the reality of being violently raped by a neighbor at age 6. “I remember telling my grandmother what the neighbor did to me and she held me and cried, which showed me her love and that comforted me,” he recalled.

Kellibrew, who visited the home where his mother and brother were killed, for the first time on Oprah, broke down on the air as he was flooded with emotions. At the SAMHSA event, he said that the care he received from his grandmother, his school principal and a therapist who treated him when he was hospitalized for a month after he expressed suicidal thoughts, was instrumental in his recovery. He cited a quote from legendary poet and educator Dr Maya Angelou: People will forget what you said or what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

But the struggle continues for Kellibrew. “My mother and brother were murdered on July 2 so that date is painful for me, but now I am doing better with coping,” he said. He said the trauma upended his life for years because “trauma disrupts a sense of control and meaning.”  Kellibrew, who admitted to being hospitalized more than nine times to receive treatment for the profound trauma of his childhood, said he turned to violence, drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships, running away, being homeless as he tried to repress the painful memories of losing a mother whom he said he adored.

“If healing is going to happen, if recovery is going to happen, it will happen if someone cares,” he said, adding, “It’s those people in my life who believed in me and cared about me that pushed me forward.” Yet he recalled a relative patting him on the back at the funeral and saying: “Baby, you’re going to have to forget about it. Don’t talk about it.” Such misguided advice, he said, can permanently scar victims and make them unwilling to seek the help that they desperately need to heal and become productive members of society. “The two populations that are hardest to reach in terms of receiving treatment for trauma are African-American men and children under 10,” Kellibrew said, emphasizing a sense of urgency in reaching those two groups and providing them with services so that they no longer feel alone.

Kellibrew currently attends the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), in the nation’s capital, where he is pursuing a business administration degree. He has been featured on MSNBC, CNN, BBC Worldwide and the Washington Post, among others. In October 2011, during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, he was honored by the White House as a “Champion for Change” because of his efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault. He has also blogged for the White House.

For more victims of trauma to make the transition to survivors, more people need to demonstrate that they care enough to make a call and reach out for expert help if the person’s appearance and interactions have changed to the extent that causes the observer to feel some degree of concern. That call might save several lives.—OnPointPress.net