[This was originally posted in January 2011.]
I transcribed these quotes from the "Master Class" series which aired on the OWN network in 2011.
My TOP 10 favorite quotes from Maya Angelou's Master Class:
1. Who You Really Are: "If a human being dreams a great dream, dares to love somebody; if a human being dares to be Martin King, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Mother Theresa, or Malcolm X; if a human being dares to be bigger than the condition into which she or he was born—it means so can you. And so you can try to stretch, stretch, stretch yourself so you can internalize, 'Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto. I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.' That's one thing I'm learning."
2. Love Liberates: "I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn't just hold—that's ego. Love liberates. It doesn't bind. Love says, 'I love you. I love you if you're in China. I love you if you're across town. I love you if you're in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I'd like to have your arms around me. I'd like to hear your voice in my ear. But that's not possible now, so I love you. Go.'"
3. On Aging: “Eighty-two is hot. Eighty-two is fabulous. I thought that the sixties were good. I thought the sixties were the hottest ever, and then I got into the seventies, and what?!What?! I loved the seventies and I thought, well,
4. I am a Child of God: "If I think of my life as a class, and what I’ve really learned. I’ve learned a few things. First, I'm aware that I’m a child of God. It’s such an amazing understanding, to think that the “It” which made fleas and mountains, rivers and stars . . . made me. What I pray for is humility to know that there is something greater than “I”. And I have to know that the brute, the bigot, and the batterer are all children of God, whether they know it or not, and I’msupposed to treat them accordingly. It’s hard, and I blow it all the time."
5. Rainbows in the Clouds: "Prepare yourself so you that can be a rainbow in somebody elses cloud; somebody that may not look like you, may not call God the same name that you call God, if they call God at all, you see? And may not eat the same dishes prepared the way you do, may not dance your dances, or speak your language. But, be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think."
6. Integrity: Oprah said about Maya Angelou, "I don’t know anyone who understands the power of words more than Maya Angelou. I’ve been in her home at a party, and someone telling [an inappropriate] joke or making fun of someone in a derogatory way and watched her invite them to leave, or stop them in mid-sentence and say, “Not in my house you won’t”.
7. Poem excerpt: “We, this people, on this wayward, floating body created on this earth, of this earth have the power to fashion for this earth a climate where every man and every woman can live freely without sanctimonious piety and without crippling fear.” [Dr. Angelou quoted this in her Master Class. From her poem, "A Brave and Startling Truth" written for the United Nations 50th Anniversary.]
8. The power of words: “Words are things, I’m convinced. You must be careful about the words you use, or the words you allow to be used in your house. In the Old Testament we’re told in Genesis that, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was God, and the word was with God.” That’s in Genesis. Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial perjoratives and sexual perjoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.
9. Finding her voice again: [She was mute for six years after being raped at age seven]. "About four years after Mrs. Flowers started me to read, and really to read, I was about twelve-and-a-half. Mrs. Flowers invited me to her house, and she used to make tea cookies and lemonade, and she’d give me that to drink, and she’d talk about poetry, and she’d read to me with this melifluous voice. She said, “Maya, you do not like poetry.” I got my tablet and I said, “Yes, Ma’am.” She wouldn’t even look at my tablet, and she pointed her finger at me and (really, black people don’t like to be pointed at, and she was so elegant, and she knew better), she just shook her finger in my face. I ran out of her house. I ran back to my grandma. And Mrs. Flowers came back there and pointed her finger at me in front of Momma. She said, “You’ll never love it until you speak it, until you feel it come across your tongue, over your teeth, through your lips, you will never love poetry. Never!” And she harassed me. She kept following me around and round for months. And finally, I went under the house where the chickens go, and the dirt is so soft because they scratch under there. I went under that house and I tried to recite a poem, and I found I had left my voice, my voice hadn’t left me. So, I started talking again, and I’ve not stopped. I thank Mrs. Flowers.”
10. Finding what you are passionate about & sacrificing for it: “I had loved to dance. I was a dancer and then my knees went bad and I had to give it up ~ as a young woman ~ and the only thing I ever loved was dancing and writing. I didn’t love singing. I wouldn’t sacrifice for singing. You can only become great at that thing you are willing to sacrifice for. Miss Holiday [Billie Holiday] was visiting me in the mid-Fifties in Hollywood (I was singing for a living). And, she asked me, “Do you want to be a great singer? You want to take my place?” I said, “No Ma’am. No Ma’am.” She said, “You’re going to be famous. You’re going to be famous, but it won’t be as singer.” So, when Miss Holiday said I wouldn’t be famous as a singer I thought, ‘What a drag’. She was absolutely right.”
11. "I’d like everybody to think of a statement by Terence. The statement is, “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” If you can internalize the least portion of that, you will never be able to say of an act, a criminal act, “Oh, I couldn’t do that.” No matter how heinous the crime, if a human being did it, you have to say, “I have in me all the components that are in her or in him. I intend to use my energies constructively as opposed to destructively.” If you can do that about the negative, just think what you can do about the positive! If a human being dreams a great dream, dares to love somebody; if a human being dares to be Martin King, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Mother Theresa, or Malcolm X; if a human beingdares to be bigger than the condition into which she or he was born—it means so can you. And so you can try to stretch, stretch, stretch yourself so you can internalize, 'Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto. I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.' That's one thing I'm learning." [Terence was a Roman writer 170-159 BC]