A Night with Maya Angelou.
At a glance the night was a wonderful mix of a warming and magical ambience, beaming with a friendship of joy, honesty, knowledge and love. I cannot recall ever having to recover from a relaxing night out, so when I woke up this morning (having not touched a drop of alcohol last night) feeling as if I had drunk my own body weight of rum I needed to collect my thoughts and feelings of last night and get them down for everyone to see! Friday night we added to the new chapter to the life of Maya Angelou that opened after her passing in June – her legacy. Her legacy and lasting imprint that she has made through her lessons of kindness – her lessons were always kind, no matter how harrowing the story, her openness, the platform she has built to allow other women to raise their voices and her ability to make others feel as if they knew her personally. We opened the night with a speech from Maya Angelou – from the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in 2009 and set the night up for a whirlwind affair with an abundance of inspiration.
From her own works to pieces that were inspired by her, the night took form in a range of incredible performances that celebrated Maya’s work and her life. We opened the night with a beautiful young lady named Lauren Williams who is currently Birmingham’s Young Poet, her poem that was inspired by Maya’s poem ‘Still I Rise’, coloured the night with fresh hope – the perfect beginning to an illustrious night.
South African poet Tessa Lowe carried the night on with a deliciously wise section from Maya Angelou’s biography. Hearing a voice filled with knowledge tell a part of someone’s story that is in turn, filled with knowledge created the perfect mixture.
As the night took a turn – for the better – the guests were treated to an acoustic delight by multi-talented musician Alisha Kadir (who is also a talented poet). Who dished up with a blend of original songs and an incorporation of ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ into ‘If I Had A Boat’ by James Vincent McMorrow. Alisha set a relaxing tone with her alluring vocals and beautiful guitar chords.
After the break we were welcomed back by Nina Lewis, a poet who had just returned to the poetry scene, but you never would have thought that she had left! Her anthology of poems inspired by Maya Angelou captivated the guests. It was a pure joy to watch a creative in her element, reading her work, executed so delicately you couldn’t help but be moved.
And when we say the night had it all, it had it all. Dramatist Marlene McKenzie who is from the Shakti Women tribe but also runs a women’s theatre group, gave us a treat of reflection. She allowed us to explore our personal growth through a ten minute piece and a character that engaged and encouraged the audience to question their relationships with people who are producing negativity and self-doubt within our lives, the answers from the guests were inspiring to say the least!
Next former Birmingham Poet Laureate and a personal favourite, eloquent poet and play writer Jan Watts read two original poems, two insights to two personal lives inspired by Maya and how she had given women a platform to use their voices, Jan ended her section with a reading of Phenomenal Woman, the sparking, self-loving poem by the late Dr. Maya Angelou.
Before the night ended we asked Lauren to join us again and perform another poem, it was the the perfect end to the perfect night. A night that was shared by so many guests who all had the same thing in common, not just the love for a great woman but the experience of her, the ability to share their stories and raise their voices and this is the effect that Maya Angelou has reaped all over the world, in so many countries and in so many different women (and mens) lives.