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Fordham professor: Maya Angelou gave us permission to ‘love ourselves’


Celebrated poet and essayist Maya Angelou died Wednesday at the age of 86.

As a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, Angelou was hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature.

Though she never made an appearance at Fordham, Angelou wrote a closing poem for a book edited by Kevin M. Cahill, director of the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs.

Angelou wrote, “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me,” for Even in Chaos:Education in Times of Emergency (Fordham University Press, 2010), a book that focuses on the need for humanitarian workers to place education on an equal footing with medical care in refugee camps, and to protect camp schools from attacks by militias.

“I told her, ‘I want you to get me back to the innocence of the children,’ and she gave the book a beautiful ending,” Cahill told Fordham in 2010.

In 2008, Angelou gave a speech at nearby Pace University in 2008. Alumna and poetLiz Bowen (FCLC ’11), then the editor-in-chief of The Observer, Fordham’s student newspaper for the Lincoln Center campus, covered the talk.

We asked one of our faculty members to share her thoughts on Maya Angelou:

“As a middle schooler in Cincinnati, Ohio, I was bombarded with images, words, and ideas that rarely reflected my experience. When we (Black girls and boys) discovered Maya Angelou, we found a way to write ourselves in, we were given permission to love ourselves despite the ways we were silenced and unseen. She revealed that the blueprint for loving all human beings could be found in our ability to live our lives without fear. May she rest in the beauty and power she created,” said Aimee Meredith Cox, culture anthropologist and assistant professor of performance and African American Studies.

-Gina Vergel


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