Born Marguerite Johnson, Maya Angelou, now 78, has spent her life following her heart, speaking her mind, and inspiring people the world over. She’s been a chef, a madam, a dancer, a singer, a producer, a director, an actress, a playwright, an educator, a historian, a civil-rights activist, a journalist, a poet, and a mother. Her life’s path has included stays in Stamps, Arkansas; St. Louis, Missouri; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Honolulu; Harlem; Cairo, Egypt; and Accra, Ghana, and is dotted with spots of tragedy and failure, joy and success. After being raped by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of seven, Angelou was so traumatized that she was unable to speak for several years. But when she reclaimed that inimitable voice, she wasn’t fooling around. Her poetry and bestselling autobiographies are as witty, wise, honest, thoughtful, and impassioned as the woman herself, and on May 3, she’ll share that voice with Santa Barbara in a night of song and spoken word at the Arlington Theatre.
Angelou’s most recent works include the autobiography and current bestseller A Song Flung Up to Heaven, which chronicles her return from Africa to the U.S., the violent deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X (friends with whom she’d worked), campaigning for civil rights, and the birth of her writing career. Also popular is the cookbook Halleluja! The Welcome Table, which presents her recipes in the context of memories, and the Christmas Poem Amazing Peace, which she wrote for the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony.
— Shannon Kelley Gould