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Angelou recalls horrific ‘abominations’ of slavery

By Mark Moss
Special to the NNPA from the Carolina Peacemaker

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (NNPA) – Renown poet and author Maya Angelou called upon the audience at Mt. Zion Baptist Church to never forget the sacrifices made by the ancestors of African Americans.

Describing the abject conditions of a slave ship – “lying spoon fashion…in each other’s excrement and urine” – Angelou added, “Imagine it. We forget it too frequently. We shouldn’t forget who we’ve come from. We have come a long way. We have been blessed to come a long way with grandfathers and grandmothers who underwent experiences we can’t even talk about.”

Angelou, who is a member of Mt. Zion, was the featured speaker at the church’s dual celebration of Juneteeth and Father’s Day. Angelou, who is best known for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, lives in Winston-Salem and teaches at Wake Forest University.

Rev. Serenus Churn, Mt. Zion’s pastor, called Angelou our “African-American Queen” during his introduction of her. “She belongs to us and she belongs to the world.”

Angelou interspersed her brief speech with poems to emphasize her theme of paying homage to Black ancestors.

Angelou said that the abominations that African Americans endured were too horrific to be included in the Alex Haley’s book, “Roots,” or in the TV adaptation of the bestseller.

“I am amazed at anyone who is ashamed to be Black,” she said. “I think, my Lord, I don’t know what I did before, but I did something right to have been sent here as a Black woman, as an African-American woman,” she said to applause.

She criticized those young people who sneered at adults who were overly obsequious because they had families to feed and clothe.

Take your ancestors with you, Angelou advised, when you go to a job interview, when you go to take an examination, when you visit strange places.

She concluded with one of her better-known poems, “Still I Rise.”

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise. . .

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise…”

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