Last week after the attacks in Brussels, I found myself thinking of two quotes. Add to that yesterday's bombing in Pakistan and they are even more relevant.
I'm not a fan of conflict. You won't find me participating in any debates on Facebook or in person. I've always felt it's more important to walk the walk, rather than talk the talk. But as CheyOnna Sewell of The Yarn Mission reminded me last month in a conversation about racism:
"When you're silent, your silence condones it. Thus whatever you believe in goes down the drain." –Jennifer Tindugan-Adoviso
I feel that we can't let events like these happen and be silent about it. Sure we could just continue to paint or draw or knit (and I hope we do) but we also need to state for the record where we stand. I see a few artists doing so but I'd like to see more. I'd like to see it in your work and YOUR words.
What is it like to dedicate your time here to the hatred and killing of others? What must it take to get to that place in your head where you no longer consider someone deserving of a voice? Insulation, isolation, oppression of thought, belief beyond reason in a cause of opposition? It’s tragic that so much of the beauty and freedom that can be experienced in a lifetime doesn’t get to register with those who seemingly need it the most. It’s sad that religions have been used for thousands of years as excuses for ideological and physical terror. It’s painful to think that each and every suicide bomber was once just as innocent as the families and children they choose to heartlessly destroy - a baby in a mother’s arms, warm and open and full of nothing but potential. It’s frustrating to know that the systematic oppression of women, science, art and education are at the core of what are driving these attacks that seem to be coming as often now as the school shootings America has all but grown numb to. It’s unsettling to know that someone feels separated enough by imaginary lines of demarcation, distanced by language, or driven inward by the bluster and bravado of a world they never bothered to understand, that they can raise a banner for a cause so antithetical to love that it appears to the rest of society as true madness. It is madness of course, but madness that is learned, and like all things learned I must believe it can be unlearned, just as the madness of slavery can be unlearned, or the madness of any long fallen regime, or the madness of your own personal politics of hatred, or disgust passed down by those before you who chose to know no better. But it takes time. Like all great unlearning. And during that time, be wary of those who cloak hatred in tradition and freedom in cultural uniformity. While it seems there isn’t much one can do on a personal level in the dark hours of overwhelming tragedy, consider those centuries old tragedies that came before and how far we are all able to move when working together to slowly and steadily uplift. We will heal, we will love and we will grow. Be kind out there, now more than ever, the world is counting on you!
So today's Monday Mourning is Maya Angelou who stated what she believed in a kind, quiet voice and gave the world much to think about.
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents split up when she was very young, and she and her older brother, Bailey, were sent to live with their father's mother, in Stamps, Arkansas.
As an African American, Angelou experienced firsthand racial prejudices and discrimination in Arkansas. She also suffered at the hands of a family friend around the age of 7. During a visit with her mother, Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend. Then, as vengeance for the sexual assault, Angelou's uncles killed the boyfriend. So traumatized by the experience, Angelou stopped talking.
In 1944, a 16-year-old Angelou gave birth to a son, Guy (a short-lived high school relationship had led to the pregnancy), thereafter working a number of jobs to support herself and her child. In 1952, she wed Anastasios Angelopulos, a Greek sailor from whom she took her professional name—a blend of her childhood nickname, "Maya," and a shortened version of his surname.
She was an author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet, and civil rights activist. She was best known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman.
When Martin Luther King Jr., a close friend of Angelou's, was assassinated on her birthday in 1968, Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years afterward. Instead she sent flowers to King's widow, Coretta Scott King, for more than 30 years, until Coretta's death in 2006.
Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014, at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. President Barack Obama issued a statement about Angelou, calling her "a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman." Angelou "had the ability to remind us that we are all God's children; that we all have something to offer," he wrote.