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It’d be virtually impossible to measure the scope and depth of influence her work has left on the people she’s touched, but as we mourn the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou today we also want to celebrate her legacy. Here are  just some of gems she’s dropped on us over the past 86 years.

I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t love themselves.

This one is pretty self explanatory and completely logical. Yet and still so many of us will waste much time trying to repair broken people and being surprised when they cant reciprocate. Anyone who doesn’t love themselves can’t possibly love you in the way you want and need to be loved.

It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s about where you end up

Maya Angelou’s story is almost unfathomable. To think that this woman who once worked as a prostitute and a madam went on to read a poem she’d written at President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 and receive the Medal of Honor from President Obama in 2011, really speaks to  her determination to change her life for the better. Not only that, her willingness and openness in sharing her, at times, less than flattering story lets others know it’s possible to change your circumstances.

Nothing human can be foreign to you

I was listening to a video produced by the National Visionary Leadership Project which featured Dr. Angelou. In it she described a lesson she wanted people, specifically young people, to grasp. She said that nothing human can be foreign to you. In other words, if you admire the work of another person, you should know that you too are capable of producing something with equal or greater value because you’re human too, endowed with the your own gifts and potential for greatness. Now, this concept doesn’t originate with Dr. Angelou, but she truly embodies it. My cousin had the good fortune of meeting her. She was so captivated to be in her presence that she kind of bowed when she went to speak to her. Dr. Angelou noticed this and told her, bow to no one except God.


Preparing and serving a good meal is comparable to making love

This is a little gem she shared with Robin Roberts when she visited her home to sample some of her recipes. You could tell it caught Robin off guard; but honestly when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Creating something that will eventually become a part of a person’s being is pretty intimidate indeed. That’s why you have to be careful what you eat and who you eat from.

When someone shows you who they are believe them… the first time

I tell my best friend all time, “Don’t ignore the crazy.” But that’s a message I have to repeat to myself at times too. When we’re trying to make something work, whether it be a romantic relationship or a friendship, we try to rationalize a person’s unsavory behavior, just so we can feel good about keeping them in our lives. But the truth is, you have to trust that the off balance person they let slip out, is the person they truly are.

Don’t let petty issues divide us

You may remember a while ago a bit of a stink was made by the fact that Common featured Dr. Angelou on one of his songs from his latest albums. In that same song he used the n-word. Dr. Angelou is not cool with the n-word and people expected their to be a big production-type fall out between Maya and Common. But that was no the case. She called up 106 and Park and said, though she didn’t agree with Common’s decision, she wouldn’t let it keep her from associating herself with him. If more of us had that type of attitude in our everyday lives, we could get a lot more accomplished.

Laughter is one of life’s greatest medicines

In the same video from the National Visionary Leadership Project, Dr. Angelou said she never trusts people who don’t laugh. She said a common misconception people have about her is that because she’s so learned, so exalted in this country and others, that she lacks a sense of humor. If you’ve read her books and listened to her speak in interviews, you know that Dr. Angelou has a great sense of humor. She once said that she doesn’t believe in being modest because when life challenges you “Modesty will drop off faster than a g-string will drop off a stripper.”  Hilarity!.. but still very wise. Maya even went so far as to suggest that laughter has served as a survival mechanism for black people. I’m with her when she’s right!

To Never Stop Learning

At 72, Oprah interviewed Angelou for O Magazine in 2000. She asked her if she considered herself wise. And Maya answered I’m in route. Then over a decade later, Oprah asked her again if she considered herself wise and Maya’s answer was the same. She responded saying that though she knows quite a bit, “I don’t know when I know enough.”



The Best Piece Of Advice She’s Ever Given

“There’s a place in you that you must keep inviolate, you must keep it pristine, clean so that nobody has the right to curse you or treat you badly. Nobody, no mother, no father, no wife, no husband, nobody. Because that may be the place you go to when you meet God.”

On Love

Though I strongly suggest you watch the video to get the full effect, here are the words she shared with Oprah during on of her Super Soul Sunday sessions.

“I think love is that condition in the human spirit, so profound that it allows us to forgive. It may be the energy which keeps the stars in the firmament. I’m not sure. It may be the energy that keeps the blood running smoothly through our veins, I’m not sure. But it’s something beyond the explanation. It can be used for anything you can explain, any good thing you can explain.”

And then she cried as she said,

“I said God loves me. It’s still humbles me that this force which made leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s amazing. I can do anything and do it well. Any good thing I can do it. That’s why I’m who I am. Yes, because God loves me and I’m amazed at it and grateful for it.”

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