A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed, Marked the mastodon. The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages. But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no more hiding place down here. You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance. Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter. The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face. Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side. Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege. Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast. Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more.
Come, Clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing. The River sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock. So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher. They hear. They all hear The speaking of the Tree. Today, the first and last of every Tree Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River. Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for. You, who gave me my first name, you Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of Other seekers--desperate for gain, Starving for gold. You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot, You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream. Here, root yourselves beside me. I am the Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved. I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours--your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced With courage, need not be lived again. Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you. Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands. Mold it into the shape of your most Private need. Sculpt it into The image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings. Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness. The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country. No less to Midas than the mendicant. No less to you now than the mastodon then. Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, into Your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.
Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson, was an Pulitzer Prize-winning African American poet. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 8 1928 and died in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on May 28, 2014. Angelou was also a dancer, an actress and a singer.
Her most prominent works include I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which documents her childhood, and The Heart of a Woman. She won multiple awards and honorary degrees throughout her life. She was awarded the Quill Award for Poetry in 2006 for the poem 'Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem'. Angelou was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian award in the United States - three years before her death. She won the NAACP Award for Outstanding Literary Work(Poetry) in 2007 as well as the BET Honors Award for Literary Arts in 2012.
Angelou was educated at the San Francisco Labor School, where she won a scholarship to study dance and drama, but left at the age of 14 to become a cable car conductor - she was the first African-American woman to do the job.
She gave birth when she was just 16 years old to her only child, Guy. To make money, she worked as a prostitute - something she wrote about in her work. In the 1950's, she worked as a professional dancer in San Francisco where she was convinced to use the stage name "Maya Angelou". After this, she worked at the Arab Observer in Egypt - where she was the sole female worker - before spending time teaching and writing in Ghana.
While her career is mostly remembered for her various writings, Angelou also spent time working as an actress, a film-maker and a producer. She starred in 'Roots' in 1977 and had a part in 'The Richard Pryor Special?'. In 1998 she directed Down in the Delta, a film starring Alfre Woodard and Al Freeman, Jr.
At the 1993 Presidential Inauguration, Angelou recited a poem from her And Still I Rise volume. She was the first African-American woman to perform at an inauguration.
Angelou is hailed as one of the most significant authors of her time, and is seen as a torch-bearer for African-American women. She received worldwide acclaim upon publishing I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 1969 - a volume where she discusses how she is kept from freedom. However, her work has also been criticized for being controversial - for raising issues such as pornography - and some have even been removed from libraries.
Angelou was well-known for her civil rights activism and worked with both Malcolm X - who she first met in Ghana - and Martin Luther King. She aided X in building the Organization of Afro-American Unity until he was assassinated in 1964. King was killed four years later on her 40th birthday. Despite their deaths, Angelou continued to work in civil rights.The freedom with which Angelou wrote owes a lot to her legacy. She was considered influential for freely writing about her personal experiences - her seven autobiographiesopenly documented her life. Before her works, black women were often marginalized and unable to properly showcase their lives. Angelou's story of succeeding from poverty and struggle has left her revered both in her field and in society as a whole.
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