There will be many of you who will shame me for making this post about Maya Angelou’s past as a sex worker. There will be others who say why am I posting this and tarnishing the image of a woman we all love?
My answer to that is a diamond that is made from coal under pressure can never be tarnished. I am doing this to affirm the image of this great women who understood that we are not our past and we all have control over how our stories our told.
First, it’s important to note that Dr. Angelou wasn’t ashamed of her sex work. In fact, she said the following:
I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, “I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? – never I. I have no skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet.” They lie like that and then young people find themselves in situations and they think, “Damn I must be a pretty bad guy. My mom or dad never did anything wrong.” They can’t forgive themselves and go on with their lives. So I wrote the book Gather Together in My Name [about her past as a sex worker]
In interviews, Dr. Angelou used the term “prostitute” to refer to her previous employment without rancor or shame. She spoke candidly to her family about it. She told her mother, brother, and son she would redact the information from the book, but only if they were uncomfortable with it. She had no issue whatsoever with speaking her truth. So why do we not know about it, save for hushed whispers and the occasional salacious reference in reports about and interviews of her? What’s so wrong with our beloved and lovely Maya Angelou having been a sex worker and brothel manager?
It comes to this: there is no way, in the minds of most people, to have worked as a prostitute and not be ashamed of it. Most people believe there is no way to have held this job (and it is a job), move onto other things, and not consider it a “seamy life” or “shameful secret.” To most people, there is no way a woman of Maya Angelou’s caliber could ever have performed as a sex worker. The idea just won’t gel for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth.
Maya Angelou: Poet Laureate, Pulitzer nominee, Tony Award winner, best selling author, poetess, winner of more than 50 honorary degrees, mother, sister, daughter, wife, National Medal of Arts winner, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, consummate and powerful woman, artist, and former sex worker. Yes, the woman you love, the woman we all love, the incomparable Dr. Maya Angelou was a sex worker and she proved, in her life and her stories, that there’s nothing wrong with it.
To quote her:
Now you understand
just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
the need for my care.
‘Cause I’m a woman
Indeed, we are proud of you, Dr. Angelou. Thank you for everything you’ve so shamelessly shared with us, for your truth needs no shame and deserves acknowledgment, acceptance, and a warm, loving embrace. Words can never express my gratitude to you and my grief at your death.
by PEECHINGTON MARIE
Source: Race and Culture / colorlines.com
The views expressed are that solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect WHUR or Howard University.
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