My sister is currently finishing her master’s degree at Wake Forest (while I slave aimlessly away in New York. The firstborn stumbles!) and this semester she gets to have class with Maya Angelou. Yes, that Maya Angelou, the celebrated poet slash memoirist slash inspirational figure. Everyone I tell this to is duly impressed, contemplating the idea of being seated in her presence with a hushed reverence. And rightly so, I suppose. Only, well, context alert, when I was visiting my sister for Thanksgiving she and some of her cohorts in higher education introduced me to this video. Go ahead and watch, it’s fairly short, then I’ll continue.
Back? Splendid. So we watched that before we went out to the bar (dubbed Club Gorgon), knocked (more than) a few back, then got the bright idea to drive by the esteemed Dr. Angelou’s house at three am to take pictures and gawk. Needless to say, after watching said YouTube clip and turning “Oops, pardon me” into a catchphrase, I wondered how my sister would sit through class with a straight face. Now, after getting a quick briefing via email, I’m impressed with my sister’s resolve.
In her lecture, Maya, er, Doctor Angelou asked the students if they “have any black friends?” Without waiting for a reply, she said “You all need to get yourselves lots of black friends. Starting with me. (A beat.) Black people don’t like to be pointed at.”
Then, according to my sister:
“[S]he told this hilarious story about being in Yugoslavia while on tour with Porgy and Bess and being accosted/making friends with a 95 year old woman (who lived in a house with “turrets… and little griffens [sic] and things…”) who’d never seen a black person before and who screamed at her first glimpse of Maya.”
Also, no one in class is allowed to use first names, so as not to “presume an intimacy.”
So, what have we learned today? Maya wants you to be her friend, but ya know, a friend that she refers to by surname. Good times!