Throughout this month, we'll be shining the spotlight on the official faces of LGBTQ+ History Month 2021. I want to highlight what was achieved by these important historical figures, who would have not had the recognition and awareness that they originally deserved. I think it is really important to highlight the challenges that the LGBTQ+ community have endured in their past, in order to help understand and support the modern community that continues to thrive today. Even if all people learn is a new name, a definition, or a whole story, then The SU is actively supporting the steps to move forward.
Who is Maya Angelou?
Maya Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life growing up in America during segregation. She was respected as a spokesperson for Black people and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, as well as being active in the Civil Rights Movement, including working with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" (1993) at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961. One of her famous lines includes, “The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher”, which may have been the first time the word "gay" was said at an inauguration with the word's current meaning. Angelou once addressed an LGBT crowd in Florida in 1996, saying, "“I am gay. I am lesbian. I am black. I am white. I am Native American. I am Christian. I am Jew. I am Muslim”.
In 2009, she called three New York State Senators to advocate for marriage equality, which would come to the state two years later. She is quoted as saying, “To love someone takes a lot of courage”. The 81-year-old said in, an interview with a newspaper, “So how much more is one challenged when the love is of the same sex and the laws say, ‘I forbid you from loving this person’?".