Little Light of Hers

Maya Angelou

At the Arlington Theatre, Wednesday, May 3.

Reviewed by Shannon Kelley Gould

From the moment Maya Angelou walked onto the stage of the Arlington Theatre last Wednesday night, she held the audience in the palm of her hand. The production began with a medley from the Inner Light Community Church’s choir, Mama’s Voices, which featured “This Little Light of Mine,” whose message became the theme of the evening. When Angelou appeared, she came to the podium singing it, immediately casting a spell on the crowd. She spoke, sang, and read to the packed house about her life, and the little “lights” that had shone on her throughout, helping to illuminate her most extraordinary of paths. Lights are always shining on us, she said; you just never know where they might be coming from.

Angelou alternately sat and stood, explaining that her once “good” left knee had recently become sympathetic to her “bad” right one. But although her joints may not be what they used to be, the woman was as sharp as ever. She spoke of her disabled Uncle Willie, who raised her and her brother Bailey along with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, and taught her multiplication. She read from some of her favorite poets, among them James Weldon Johnson and Paul Laurence Dunbar, and reminisced about gazing at the then-brand-new United Nations building in San Francisco when she was 16 years old, thinking to herself, “If only I wasn’t black, poor, young, uneducated, and pregnant, I could get inside.” At the 50th anniversary of the UN’s founding, she was invited there to read “A Brave and Startling Truth.” Although written more than 10 years ago, its message of peace rings truer than ever today.

She said she’s often asked how she made it through, and said, “There’s no one who hasn’t gone to bed feeling sadness, loneliness, or despair. We get up, that’s just what we do.” Making the point that we’re all the same, she called upon a quote from Terentius Afer, a slave who was sold to a Roman Senator and then freed by that Senator, who went on to become the most popular playwright in Rome. “‘I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.’ Imagine. …” she said, in her inimitable, melodic voice, making the crowd do just that. Just as she always does.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Steven Seagal Named Special Envoy by Russia

The former Santa Ynez resident is a Russian citizen.

County Services Transitioning Away from Montecito Disaster Center

Post-1/9 support will still be available at

Goleta Limits Accessory Dwelling Units to 800 Square Feet

The city followed most of the state's ADU rules, though two large projects swept through before the ...

New Coast Guard Cutter Named After Fallen Officer

Terrell Horne III was murdered near Santa Cruz Island in 2012.

SBCC Promise a Draw for High School Grads

Program offers two free years to dedicated students.