I turned the corner after hearing her speak and there she was. I shouted out, “Dr. Angelou…It’s me…Jeff.” Dr. Maya Angelou didn’t know who I was and I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to call out to her like we were old friends. Regardless of my buffoonery, Dr. Angelou turned around and clasped my hand. We locked eyes for a few seconds as we talked about our faith. I will never forget those moments. I felt the incarnation of love, liberation and reconciliation embodied in every bit of her presence. This was a dangerous encounter. I knew I had to be something when I left.
Many times in many spaces Dr Angelou uttered these beautiful words, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I will never forget how she made me feel…like a human with tremendous potential to love and be loved.
Dr. Angelou speaks to all of us right now in these moments of unimaginable injustice. The success of our pursuits of justice will not be judged on what we say or what we do…they will be judged on how we are able to love and be loved. Dr. Angelou had every reason to spit in my white male face and walk away. From the rape of her seven-year-old body to the racism that she experienced throughout her life, there was no reason for her to be so generous to any white male…but she was and it changed me. We can continue to pursue activism in ways that create division and make people feel like shit or we can follow the path of Dr. Angelou and engage people in love.
People will forget all the bullshit you say.
People will forget all the bullshit you do.
But people will never forget how you make them feel.
How do we make people feel in our efforts toward justice?
The danger of Dr. Angelou is that the totality of her life makes great demands of all us that she leaves behind.