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Now we know why Maya Angelou sings

Miami Times Editorial Department | 6/5/2014, 9 a.m.

Amidst the physical prowess of today’s star athletes and glamour of Black entertainers, Maya Angelou was a unique celebrity who lived in the limelight as America’s poet laureate. From presidential inaugurations to commencement addresses, Angelou graced this nation with her intellectual prose and insight on the human condition. As America plans to return this humanitarian back to her ancestors, one wonders, who will be the next poet laureate to inspire others to think beyond themselves and the physical.

Black educators and leaders are encouraging our youth to become doctors, lawyers and other influential professionals. And with fame and astronomical salaries in professional sports, youth are still in hot pursuit in trying to be like Mike. Many admire Angelou, but who wants to be a poet laureate? How many parents encourage youth to pursue a profession that normally generates little fame and fortune than corporate careers? Angelou was an exception. Her childhood struggles could have steered her to a career in law or politics like most citizens seeking to fulfillment and vindication as they attack social ills that have soiled and robbed the innocence of their youth.

Other than Angelou, how many popular Black poets does one know? Should we encourage youth to pursue artistic careers that don’t guarantee the same social status and material rewards as those that require advanced degrees and training? While leaders continue to encourage youth to explore the fields of science, mathematics and technology to stay competitive in the global market, the arts seem to have far less appeal and value in a world concerned with the external. Like most artists, Angelou was preoccupied with human compassion and the unknown. With the workplace more competitive and brutal than ever, how many people think about compassion when it comes to getting ahead.

With increasing violence among America’s youth, why not stress the humanities on the same level as sports, technology and the science and mathematics?

Whether or not one appreciated her literary talents, Angelou was an important figure in America’s literary landscape, for at least she reminded Blacks and the nation that a career in the arts can be as powerful and influential as those in arenas and hospitals.

Black parents today are unlikely to encourage their children to follow in the footsteps of Angelou, who never graduated from college, yet impacted millions of people with her words of comfort and understanding. She earned at least 50 honorary doctorates degrees, but it was her wisdom from a hard life and spirituality that led many to address her as Dr. Angelou.

Angelou leaves a legacy and void that cannot be filled as with Michael Jordan. But how many youth will dare to rise and challenge the greatness of a poet laureate instead of a basketball icon?