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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Remembrance of Maya Angelou - In The Spirit

I grew up pro-black, afro-conscious, proud of my heritage. It's just how I was raised. Any time I had to do a report, presentation, oration in middle and high school, I always chose something that was representative of my culture. I wrote about Queen Hatshepsut in World History class. I read Roots in 7th grade. One year, I recited Sojourner Truth's "And Ain't I a Woman?" speech. So, when our English teacher (I think it was Voet) had us do presentations on a literary work or maybe it was just poetry. I decided to present a work of Maya Angelou's "In The Spirit", a chapter from her book Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now (1993). When I heard of her passing, I immediately began to wonder if she had gone on to join heaven's party with my Mommy and so many others. Then I recalled this passage, and had to wait to get home to find it and read it. Here it is, manually typed in entirety. It's the least I could do to honor a legacy so great...

"In The Spirit"
Spirit is an invisible force made visible in all life. In many African religions there is the belief that all things are inhabited by spirits which must be appeased and to which one can appeal. So, for example, when a master drummer prepares to carve a new drum, he approaches the selected tree and speaks to the spirit residing there. In his prayer he describe himself, his experience, and his expertise; then he explains his intent. He assures the spirit that he will remain grateful for the gift of the tree and that he will use the drum only for honorable purposes.

I believe that Spirit is one and is everywhere present. That it never leaves me. That in my ignorance I may withdraw from it, but I can realize its presence the instant I return to my senses. 

It is this belief in a power larger than myself and other than myself which allows me to venture into the unknown and even the unknowable. I cannot separate what I conceive as Spirit from my concept of God. Thus, I believe that God is Spirit. 

While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God's creation. This is particularly difficult for me when my mind falls upon the cruel person, the batterer, and the bigot. I would like to think that the mean-spirited were created by another force and under the aegis and direction of something other than my God. But since I believe that God created all things, I am not only constrained to know that the oppressor is a child of God, but also obliged to try to treat him or her as a child of God. 

My faith is tested many times every day, and more times than I'd like to confess, I'm unable to keep the banner of faith aloft. If a promise is not kept, or if a secret is betrayed, or if I experience long-lasting pain, I begin to doubt God and God's love. I fall so miserably into the chasm of disbelief that I cry out in despair. Then the Spirit lifts me up again, and once more I am secured in faith. I don't know how that happens, save when I cry out earnestly I am answered immediately and am returned to faithfulness. I am once again filled with Spirit and firmly planted on solid ground. 

I remember wondering back then if Maya Angelou was a Christian and being unsure. Today, I read that she was, but hated to be tied down to denomination so held membership in a Baptist church and a Methodist church. I'd like to believe that she was, but regardless of all that, I think her words are easily applicable to life as a Christian. I love how she reminds herself that everyone is a child of God, no matter who they are. I also love how she so eloquently describes the Christian journey - from faith to doubt to despair back to faith all over again. 

Oh Maya, I've read and even recited so many of your works over the years. Your words, your legacy, your life meant so much to so many people. 

Rest in Peace and Praise, 

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