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Dubai Abulhoul: Maya Angelou, a rainbow in history’s cloud
June 01, 2014
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Maya Angelou, who died at the age of 86 on the 28th of May 2014, once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

There hasn’t been a time where this statement has been more accurate. Angelou, through her countless contributions to the world we live in today, has touched thousands of hearts. Literature, and the world, has truly lost a gem. Her words, poetry, and letters are still alive, defying her own life’s temporary existence.

Maya Angelou’s writing career started when she moved to New York and joined the Harlem Writers’ Guild. She was one of the many young African-American writers who were interested in joining the Civil Rights Movement through their art and writing. She later moved to Cairo, Egypt with her husband and son and continued to pursue her writing career by working for “The Arab Observer” as an editor of the English language. She was a citizen of the world, later moving to Ghana and writing for multiple publications including “The African Review” and “The Ghanaian Times”.

She was also an activist and a favourite among multiple US presidents.

Angelou was invited by President Carter to take part in the Presidential Commission for the International Year of the Woman.

Also, she recited her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” during President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She played a big role in Malcolm X’s life, returning to the United States in 1964 to aid him in the building of “Organization of African American Unity.”

She also worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., and was the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After the death of both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou found an escape in writing. She wrote and published her autobiography titled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which won her acclaim from readers and critics alike. Her contributions to the world of literature are endless, publishing 30 titles in total. Her screenplay, “Georgia Georgia”, was the first screenplay written by an African-American woman and later turned into a film. “Georgia Georgia” was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

When asked about her life, Maya Angelou responded, saying: “I’ve had rainbows in my clouds. And the thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself, so that you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud, somebody who may not look like you. Someone who might not dance your dances, or speak your language, but be a blessing to somebody.”

Maya Angelou’s life is definitely one for the books. She wrote her achievements on the sands of time, and left her footsteps in the lives of the many she has encountered, whether in real life or through her writing. Life will continue to whisper her words every time someone picks up one of her books, as she slowly seeps in the minds of her readers.

Her compassion, understanding and dedication in making the world a better place have left a ripple effect in history’s pages. Here’s to Maya Angelou, and the immortal power of words. In hopes that we, too, become rainbows in other people’s clouds, just like she was in ours.

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The author is an Emirati novelist-writer

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