I didn’t appreciate who you were, but I’ve come to understand. Over the years I would see you on this show or that and my impression was that you were a bit too precious and over the top. You had the diction of a Northeastern blue blood and I my assumption was that you came from a privileged up-bringing. Your whole persona seemed affected and that chilled my interest in who you were or what you had to say.
I heard ‘Still I Rise’ without being aware of ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’. I’m not sure a white guy raised in Minnesota could appreciate one without the other. I didn’t know that you shared the stage with James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett Jr., and Cicely Tyson, (All of whom I’ve always thought highly of).
I have come to understand what black entertainers like you, Ozzy Davis, Sammy Davis Jr. Harry Belafonte and all the others had to go through being well loved entertainers, yet having to come and go through the servant’s entrance of the venues that you were playing.
I’ve been shot at and nearly run over by bigot crackers because I was traveling with my ‘road dog’ Chris who was also the best man at two of my weddings. I’d forgotten at the time that he was black, but the world reminded us. He apologized to me once that I had to endure this with him and I burned with shame so deeply that I could taste the ash in my mouth. I tell you this only so that you know that I get it…as much as I’m able.
I’m sorry, Doctor Angelou. You were regal, and proud, and your respect was hard won. Forgive me for not knowing. You have a place of honor in my soul, Ma’am.