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Remembering Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history….With your bitter, twisted lies, You may tread me in the very dirt….But still, like dust, I’ll rise.  Maya Angelou’s story awed millions. A childhood victim of rape, she broke through silence and shame to tell her tale in one of the most widely read memoirs of the 20th…

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You may write me down in history….With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may tread me in the very dirt….But still, like dust, I’ll rise. 

Maya Angelou’s story awed millions. A childhood victim of rape, she broke through silence and shame to tell her tale in one of the most widely read memoirs of the 20th century. A black woman born into poverty and segregation, she recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history.

“I’m not modest,” she told The Associated Press in 2013. “I have no modesty. Modesty is a learned behavior. But I do pray for humility, because humility comes from the inside out.”

Angelou, a renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, died Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace,” said her son, Guy B. Johnson.

Tall and regal, with a deep, majestic voice, she was unforgettable whether encountered in person, through sound or the printed word. She was an actress, singer and dancer in the 1950s and 1960s and made a brave and sensational debut as an author in 1969 with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which became standard (and occasionally censored) reading and made Angelou one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream literary success.

“Caged Bird” was the start of a multipart autobiography that continued through the decades and captured a life of hopeless obscurity and triumphant, kaleidoscopic fame.

The world was watching in 1993 when she read her cautiously hopeful “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Her confident performance openly delighted Clinton and made publishing history by making a poem a best-seller. For President George W. Bush, she read another poem, “Amazing Peace,” at the 2005 Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House. Presidents honored her in return with a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. In 2013, she received an honorary National Book Award.

She called herself a poet, in love with the “sound of language,” ”the music in language,” as she explained to the AP in 2013. But she lived so many lives. She was a wonder to Toni Morrison, who marveled at Angelou’s freedom from inhibition, her willingness to celebrate her own achievements. She was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey, whom she befriended when Winfrey was still a local television reporter, and often appeared on her friend’s talk show program. She mastered several languages and published not just poetry but advice books, cookbooks and children’s stories. She wrote music, plays and screenplays, received an Emmy nomination for her acting in “Roots,” and never lost her passion for dance, the art she considered closest to poetry.

“The line of the dancer: If you watch (Mikhail) Baryshnikov and you see that line, that’s what the poet tries for. The poet tries for the line, the balance,” she told The Associated Press in 2008, shortly before her 80th birthday.

Her very name was a reinvention. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis and raised in Stamps, Arkansas, and San Francisco, moving back and forth between her parents and her grandmother. She was smart and fresh to the point of danger, packed off by her family to California after sassing a white store clerk in Arkansas. Other times, she didn’t speak at all: At age 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and didn’t talk for years. She learned by reading, and listening.

“I loved the poetry that was sung in the black church: ‘Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,'” she told the AP. “It just seemed to me the most wonderful way of talking. And ‘Deep River.’ Ooh! Even now it can catch me. And then I started reading, really reading, at about 7 1/2, because a woman in my town took me to the library, a black school library. … And I read every book, even if I didn’t understand it.”

At age 9, she was writing poetry. By 17, she was a single mother. In her early 20s, she danced at a strip joint, ran a brothel, got married and then divorced. But by her mid-20s, she was performing at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, where she shared billing with another future star, Phyllis Diller. She also spent a few days with Billie Holiday, who was kind enough to sing a lullaby to Angelou’s son, surly enough to heckle her off the stage and astute enough to tell her: “You’re going to be famous. But it won’t be for singing.”

After renaming herself Maya Angelou for the stage (“Maya” was a childhood nickname, “Angelou” a variation of her husband’s name), she toured in “Porgy and Bess” and Jean Genet’s “The Blacks” and danced with Alvin Ailey. She worked as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and lived for years in Egypt and Ghana, where she met Nelson Mandela, a longtime friend; and Malcolm X, to whom she remained close until his assassination, in 1965. Three years later, she was helping King organize the Poor People’s March in Memphis, Tennessee, where the civil rights leader was slain on Angelou’s 40th birthday.

“Every year, on that day, Coretta and I would send each other flowers,” Angelou said of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006.

Angelou was little known outside the theatrical community until “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which might not have happened if writer James Baldwin hadn’t persuaded Angelou, still grieving over King’s death, to attend a party at the home of Jules Feiffer, a cartoonist and writer. Feiffer was so taken by Angelou that he mentioned her to Random House editor Bob Loomis, who persuaded her to write a book by daring her into it, saying that it was “nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature.”

“Well, maybe I will try it,” Angelou responded. “I don’t know how it will turn out. But I can try.”  Angelou’s musical style was clear in a passage about boxing great Joe Louis’ defeat in 1936 against German fighter Max Schmeling:  “My race groaned,” she wrote. “It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps. … If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help.”

Angelou’s memoir was occasionally attacked, for seemingly opposite reasons. In a 1999 essay in Harper’s, author Francine Prose criticized “Caged Bird” as “manipulative” melodrama. Meanwhile, Angelou’s passages about her rape and teen pregnancy have made the book a perennial on the American Library Association’s list of works that draw complaints from parents and educators. “‘I thought that it was a mild book. There’s no profanity,” Angelou told the AP. “It speaks about surviving, and it really doesn’t make ogres of many people. I was shocked to find there were people who really wanted it banned, and I still believe people who are against the book have never read the book.”

Angelou appeared on several TV programs, notably the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots.” She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her appearance in the play “Look Away.” She directed the film “Down in the Delta,” about a drug-wrecked woman who returns to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta. She won three Grammys for her spoken-word albums and in 2013 received an honorary National Book Award for her contributions to the literary community.

Back in the 1960s, Malcolm X had written to Angelou and praised her for her ability to communicate so directly, with her “feet firmly rooted on the ground.” In 2002, Angelou communicated in an unexpected way when she launched a line of greeting cards with industry giant Hallmark. Angelou admitted she was cool to the idea at first. Then she went to Loomis, her editor at Random House, who was concerned the project would “trivialize” Angelou, whom called “the people’s poet.”

“And then I thought about it. And I thought, if I’m the people’s poet, then I ought to be in the people’s hands — and I hope in their hearts. So I thought, ‘Hmm, I’ll do it.'” She had been a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University since 1982. She was also a member of the board of trustees for Bennett College, a private school for black women in Greensboro. Angelou hosted a weekly satellite radio show for XM’s “Oprah & Friends” channel.

She remained so close to the Clintons that in 2008 she supported Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy over the ultimately successful run of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama. But a few days before Obama’s inauguration, she was clearly overjoyed. She told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she would be watching it on television “somewhere between crying and praying and being grateful and laughing when I see faces I know.”

Active on the lecture circuit, she gave commencement speeches and addressed academic and corporate events across the country. Angelou received dozens of honorary degrees, and several elementary schools were named for her.

There are many things that a life like Maya Angelou’s teaches us who are left behind. But I believe her most enduring legacy is that she gave us a perfect formula for resilience. For getting back up again and again no matter what. She taught us that a caged bird sings, not because he knows how or because he expects to be set free, but because he simply has a song in his soul. So it is with us. Many of us live as caged birds, waiting to sing. Waiting for the doors to be unlocked. To be set free. When in reality what we need is to sing loudly in the midst of our captivity. To raise our voices. Lift our souls. And share our song with the world.

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CNN Reporter Omar Jimenez Released After Arrest Live On Air During Minneapolis Protest Broadcast; Governor Apologizes

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4TH UPDATE, 12 PM PT: CNN says that it accepts Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s apology after reporter Omar Jimenez and a network crew were arrested early Wednesday while covering the George Floyd protests. Watch the video of the arrest above.

A CNN spokesperson said, “We accept Governor Walz’s apology and appreciate the sincerity of his words about the arrest of our crew this morning.  As journalists, the First Amendment gives us not only the right but also the responsibility to shine light in darkness and hold those in power to account.  With that in mind, we will move forward and continue our work in Minneapolis and everywhere else stories need to be told.”

Jimenez and two members of the crew, producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez, were arrested as they were doing a CNN live shot. They were released, but CNN worldwide president Jeff Zucker spoke with Walz to express his concern over what happened.

The Minnesota State Patrol issued a statement that said, “In the course of clearing the streets and restoring order at Lake Street and Snelling Avenue, four people were arrested by State Patrol troopers, including three members of a CNN crew. The three were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.”

But CNN responded with a statement that said “This is not accurate — our CNN crew identified themselves, on live television, immediately as journalists. We thank Minnesota @GovTimWalz for his swift action this morning to aid in the release of our crew.”

3RD UPDATE, 9:37 AM PT: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said that he takes “fully responsibility” for the arrest of Omar Jimenez and a CNN crew as they covered protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd.

“I take full responsibility there is absolutely no reason something like this should happen calls were made immediately,” Walz said at a press conference. “This is a very public apology to that team.”

He added, “In a situation like this, even if you’re clearing an area, we have got to ensure that there is a safe spot for journalism to tell the story. The issue here is trust. The community that’s down there, that’s terrorized by this, if they see a reporter being arrested, their assumption is that something’s going to happen that they don’t want to be seen. And so that is that is unacceptable. We will continue to strive to make sure that accessibility is maintained, that not only that, the protection and security and safety of the journalists covering this is a top priority.”

He said that he spoke with CNN president Jeff Zucker soon after the arrests, and Zucker wanted to know what happened.

“I appreciate his understanding in a situation, that he was rightfully incredibly angry, and that falls squarely on me that apology has been issued, and I think going forward to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Walz said.

Katie Townsend, legal director for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, said that CNN may have a claim in this situation, as other journalists have sued government agencies and officials in the past for arrests during protest situations. In an email, she said that the First Amendment prohibits government officials, including police officers from interfering with news gathering or retaliating against journalists for protected speech.

“These claims can be difficult to establish, and there have been cases recently … that suggest that the bar for proving that an arrest violated and individual’s First Amendment rights is high.

“That said, having watched the video here, it doesn’t appear that the police had probable cause for an arrest; the CNN crew responded professionally, identified themselves as journalists, and repeatedly asked where they should stand; they were arrested anyway.”

According to the Reporters Committee, there were nine arrests of journalists in the U.S. in 2019, five of which took place at protests. That was compared to 11 in 2018 and 38 in 2017.

SAG-AFTRA, which represents broadcast journalists, issued this statement Friday afternoon: “As journalists it is our job to cover protests, demonstrations, marches and rallies — some peaceful, some not. We do this without interfering with protesters or law enforcement. The arrest of Omar Jimenez, who was clearly identified as a credentialed member of the news media, is unacceptable.”

One of Jimenez’s colleagues also covering the protests, Josh Campbell, said that he received the “opposite treatment” from police. He identified himself and his news outlet and was allowed to remain in a designated area, he told CNN’s John Berman.

“Let me just say something — it is a statement of fact. You Josh Campbell are white. Omar Jimenez is not. I do not know if that played into this,” Berman said.

“There was a lot different here than what Omar experienced,” Berman said.

2ND UPDATE, 4:44 AM: CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew have now been released from policy custody after their arrest live on air this morning mid-broadcast from the Minneapolis protests. As per below, state Governor Tim Walz intervened directly in the incident after calling CNN president Jeff Zucker to apologize.

After being released, Jimenez immediately took to the air again to recount the story and update on his situation.

“Everyone was pretty cordial after that [my arrest] happened,” said Jimenez, who added that a police officer told him he was “just following orders”.

“They weren’t violent with me, we were having conversation about how crazy this week has been for every single part of the city. A lot of these people are on edge,” the reporter continued. “The one thing that gave me a little bit of comfort was that it happened on live TV. When you talk within the community about, let’s say what happened with George Floyd, there’s discussion that, what’s happening isn’t new, it’s being filmed. That speaks to the power of having something that happens on camera. You can have people speak up for you without you saying anything.

“You guys [CNN anchors] saw what was happening, I was living what was happening, and the country was seeing what was happening unfold in real time right before their eyes – you don’t have to doubt my story, it’s not filtered in any sort of way, that gave me a little bit of comfort,” said Jimenez.

Twitter has been flooded with condemnation for the incident and praise directed at Jimenez for his professionalism.

UPDATED, 4:28 AM: CNN is now reporting that Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has spoken directly to CNN president Jeff Zucker to take full responsibility for the incident, and is working to have Jimenez and his crew released immediately. “It was totally unacceptable and inadvertent what happened… they clearly had the right to be there, we want the media to cover this [the protests], it is never acceptable for this to happen,” Walz told Zucker, according to CNN’s John Berman.

PREVIOUSLY 3:30 AM: CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his camera crew have been arrested during a live broadcast from the Minneapolis protests.

Footage quickly emerged online, and many of Jimenez’s colleagues took to Twitter in outcry.

The incident took place shortly after 6AM EST (3AM PST) during the live filming of CNN’s weekday morning show New Day.

In the footage, Jimenez, sporting a virus protective mask, is being quizzed by his anchors Alisyn Camerota and John Berman in front of a group of riot police as they move to arrest a nearby person. State patrol then approach the presenter and his crew, and Jimenez can be heard telling the officers that the four-strong unit can move “where they would like” to get out of their way in a cooperative and non-confrontational manner. The officers surround the crew as Jimenez continues to report live on air, before he is told that he is under arrest and placed in handcuffs, displaying them to the camera as he is walked away. After a moment, the crew are also placed into handcuffs.

“That is an American television reporter being led away by police officers. He clearly identified himself as a reporter and was respectfully explaining to the police that the CNN team was there and moving away as they would request, and then for some reason he was taken into police custody live on television,” said anchor John Berman off screen.

“I have never seen anything like this,” Berman adds on several occasions. The camera continued to roll after the arrests, sitting on the floor at the feet of the officers.

Fellow CNN Josh Campell, who is white, was also in the area but was not arrested. “I identified myself… they said, ‘OK, you’re permitted to be in the area’… What happened to Omar (Jimenez) was clearly a lot different… I was treated much differently than he (Jimenez) was,” he told the network.

CNN has confirmed the incident and called for the immediate release of its employees. “A CNN reporter and his production team were arrested this morning in Minneapolis for doing their jobs, despite identifying themselves – a clear violation of their First Amendment rights. The authorities in Minnesota, including the Governor, must release the three CNN employees immediately,” a statement from the network read.

Fierce protests have been raging in Minneapolis since an unarmed black man, George Floyd, died in police custody on Monday. Overnight, protesters broke into a police precinct in the city and set it on fire as the violence escalated. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has activated the state National Guard in a bid to restore order. Four officers involved in the incident have been fired but have not yet faced charges, with prosecutors stating they are still gathering evidence.

President Donald Trump tweeted earlier on Friday that the military would “assume control” in the city if the disturbances continue, adding “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. His remarks have provoked a huge blowback and were subsequently flagged by Twitter for violating its rules around “glorifying violence”.

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New video appears to show three police officers kneeling on George Floyd

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New video posted on social media appears to show three Minneapolis Police Department officers kneeling on George Floyd during his arrest.

Previous video from eyewitness Darnella Frazier showed Floyd, 46, being knelt on by one officer–Derek Chauvin.

The new video shows the other side of the Minneapolis police vehicle where the arrest occurred. The video appears to show Chauvin and two other officers kneeling on Floyd.

Chauvin was taken into custody on Friday afternoon, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. He faces charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

Four officers were involved in the incident and all have since been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

Floyd was arrested after he allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, police have said. Outrage grew after the first video surfaced showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck. The 46-year-old, who was unarmed and handcuffed, died after the arrest.

Minneapolis police said in a statement earlier this week that officers had been responding to an alleged forgery on Monday evening and that during the arrest, Floyd “physically resisted” them.

However, surveillance footage from the nearby Dragon Wok restaurant does not appear to support the claim that Floyd resisted arrest during the initial encounter. However, there are several minutes where Floyd’s and the officers interactions cannot be seen from the camera’s vantage point.

This new video appears to have been taken before the Frazier video, but after that surveillance video.

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Veterans Affairs Gives 1,300 Vets Unproven COVID-19 Drug Touted By Trump

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The federal Department of Veterans Affairs has been giving 1,300 veterans hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus since late March — even though the drug has not been proven to be effective against the illness and may even trigger fatal heart problems.

In a study of 100,000 patients with COVID-19 published Friday in the medical journal The Lancet, patients who received hydroxychloroquine had a “significantly higher risk of death” compared to those who were not given the drug. “We were unable to confirm a benefit of hydroxychloroquine” on in-hospital outcomes for COVID-19, the researchers concluded.

An April study of veterans who were given the drug — relentlessly hawked by President Donald Trump — produced similar findings.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a letter Friday to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that despite mounting concerns about the drug, the VA will continue to use hydroxychloroquine for veterans.

Revelations of the use of the controversial antimalarial drug have sparked concerns about the effects it may have on veterans, many of whom are older and have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to a fatal side effect of the drug: heart arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats.

“Veterans’ groups remain deeply concerned that the VA has made large purchases of this drug and appears to have administered it to veterans despite the well-known, and in some cases, fatal risks,” Schumer wrote Wilkie earlier this month.

After Wilkie’s letter on Friday, Schumer responded in a statement later that day, saying, “This drug may be useless or even harmful for COVID-19 patients, but the VA continues to administer it to hundreds of vets. Why are we just learning this?”

“We need to know what the basis was for using this drug against the consensus of science, which called into question its effectiveness in treating COVID-19,” he continued. “We also need to know who is authorizing these new trials, what facilities are participating and what families are being told.”

Trump has been aggressively pitching hydroxychloroquine since March, even though the drug had not yet undergone clinical trials examining its effectiveness against COVID-19.

“What do we have to lose?” he asked during a briefing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have both warned against using the drug to treat COVID-19.

Last Monday, the president attacked a study of veterans treated with the drug that showed no benefits against the coronavirus. He called the findings a “Trump enemy statement,” insisting they were politically motivated. He then claimed that he had been taking the drug for weeks, though he stopped on Friday.

The Trump administration ordered 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine before it underwent trials for COVID-19 treatment. The VA also bulk-ordered some 6.3 million doses, according to Wilkie’s letter.

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