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Angelou imparted charge to action in Eastern Iowa

Published: Thursday, May 29, 2014 12:04 p.m. CDT

(MCT) — “Maya Angelou has paved the way for all women today,” event Director Diane Ramsey told an overflow audience April 26, 2011, at the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference in Coralville.

For the next hour, Angelou offered pearls of wisdom born of her then-83 years of knowing great joy and great hardship, as she developed the courage to let herself soar. Through poetry, song, life stories and encouraging words, she urged those gathered to continue teaching, leading the next generation through truth and example.

It was an example set by her grandmother who was raising two sons “in the lynching South” and “had enough courage to lead.”

“In her time she was considered a wise woman. How do we get to be like that, unless you accept your responsibility?

“This is why I wanted to come here,” Angelou said, “because the women in this leadership conference have decided to accept the responsibility — to take the responsibility for the time they have and the space they occupy.”

The celebrated poet, author, professor, singer, dancer, actor, historian, playwright, producer, director and civil-rights activist made other trips to Eastern Iowa, as well.

In June 1985, she told the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, meeting in Cedar Rapids, that “an entire species depends on keeping the arts alive and accessible.”

She called each person a “resource of incredible art,” saying she learned at an early age “that being an artist means taking responsibility for the time and space one takes up.”

In September 1994, she used her words and music to captivate 2,500 people at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City.

“This is your life. It’s not your momma’s. It’s not your papa’s. It’s not your boyfriend’s. It’s not your girlfriend’s. This is your life. Have it.”

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©2014 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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