How Is Maya Angelou A Leader

Maya Angelou, who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 70s, has been celebrated as an important cultural leader and voice for justice. Along with her writing, her advocacy has shaped both the civil rights, social justice and the feminist movements of her time, and she continues to influence those movements today. As a leader, Angelou spoke out against bullying and racism, served on President Carter’s Commission on Women, was a leader in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and championed a vision for peace and social justice through poetry, literature, speeches, and radio. Here are some of the ways Maya Angelou has led her generations.

Expounding Social Change

Angelou used her writings to illustrate the injustice and inhumanity of racism and the importance of individuals to recognize their role in creating a more equitable society. As a nun, she wrote the script for a show about a nun who tries to save a child from the death penalty imposed on her father, who was wrongfully convicted. Additionally, she wrote extensively about the conditions of African American life and created hope in a cause that at the time seemed like a lost cause. As well, she wrote a book titled, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” which published in 1969 and went on to become her most lauded work. By bringing to light the various levels of flawed systems in the U.S., Angelou became a teacher of progressive thought and a leader of an intense social justice movement.

Promoting Education

Angelou dedicated her life to pursuing a better world. As an educator Angelou worked to inspire people to seek the knowledge and skills required to help eradicate social injustice. She served as a lecturer of African American studies, an assistant professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, and taught at the University of Ghana. Generously sharing her experiences and knowledge through teaching, Angelou was a strong advocate for governments and people to invest in better education for their collective advancement.

Working Collaboratively

Angelou was a leader who sought out collaboration and collective action. In the 1960s, she served as Northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and spoke at Dr. Martin Luther King’s march on Washington. Later, she actively pursued ways to bridge the racial relations divide. She forged ties between prominent leaders like Coretta Scott King and Malcom X and other civil rights advocates as a hallmark of her leadership approach. Angelou also used her social network to generate donations for schools, health clinics, and other public services in the United States and Africa.

Making History

Angelou was a part of history when she presented her signature poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning,” at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Those four minutes that day brought not only poetry but the spirit of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” to the spotlight. In the poem, Angelou energized the nation to come together and move through the challenges of the future with strength and purpose.

Raising Her Voice for Others

Angelou’s leadership was not based exclusively on her writing and speaking, but also on her direct engagement with civil rights activists and decision makers. During the 70s, when women were advocating the Equal Rights Amendment and litigating to end gender discrimination, Angelou famously declared, “We all have to stand up to our relatives and our friends and our neighbors and proclaim that yes, women do have rights.” This was just one of Angelou’s efforts to stand up on behalf of those who, at the time, had no voice to stand on their own, and she continued to support these causes throughout her career.

A Legacy of Activism

Angelou’s legacy of activism and leadership remains in American life to this day and her impact will continue for generations to come. Angelou leveraged her experiences, network, and words as a leader in service of others. She held a firm belief in individual power and grassroot initiatives as the genesis of large-scale societal change. Even in her final days, Angelou was leading her cause of social justice, saying “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

An Artist in Commentator

Angelou used her gift and skill to portray the complexity of life and social injustice with such clarity that it had a profound and lasting effect on those who heard her words. She pushed the boundaries of traditional literature in order to paint a picture of American culture and was guided by her faith in the power of art to move and empower people. Her works transcended the traditional barriers of class and her writings provided a candid yet passionate expression of the spirit of America. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Anyone who has read any of Maya’s works knows that life is not a spectator sport. Life is a participatory event.”

An Advocate for Women

Angelou was a powerful advocate for women and girls everywhere, recognizing the importance of setting high standards and empowering the next generation. She was a formal advisor to both President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore and served on President Carter’s Commission on Women. In all of these roles, Angelou pushed forth important initiatives such as equal pay, women’s health care, and economic opportunity, and also worked to protect women from discrimination, violence and harassment.

A Defender of International Peace

Angelou was an adamant proponent for peace and international solidarity. She traveled the world to meet with world leaders and discuss ways to improve people’s lives and to help bring about change. Angelou’s acclaimed work, “A Song Flung Up to Heaven,” illustrates how Angelou used her influence to make the world a better place. She used tangible actions such as kissing refugees, bringing shelter to displaced people, and engaging in direct conversations with leaders about poverty and healthcare to add her voice to the call for global justice.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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