Last Updated on March 12, 2016 by Andre Loftis

[vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text css_animation=””]“You, created only a little lower than the angels, have crouched too long in the bruising darkness, have lain too long face down in ignorance, your mouths spelling words armed for slaughter. The rock cries out today, you may stand on me, but do not hide your face.”

–Maya Angelou, Inaugural Poem, On the Pulse of Morning

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”grey” align=”align_center” style=”” border_width=”” el_width=””][vc_column_text css_animation=””]There are only five inaugural poets in the history of America. The first male was Robert Frost. The first female and second poet to be nationally honored with this designation was the beloved Maya Angelou.

Inaugural poets, primarily the choice of Democratic Presidents, are part of an exclusive group of writers—the air at this level of poetic excellence is rare.

The marriage of poetry and politics on inauguration day seems appropriate. It is a time of healing and a time of new beginnings–the hard fought presidential election is behind the nation and the soothing words of a national poet can be a balm at the end of a grueling political battle.

On inauguration day, Americans of both political parties, all races, all religions, somehow move past the vitriol of what are usually long and arduous campaigns and embrace their common purpose as Americans. It used to be that way in America (at least on the surface); but a lot has changed, to such an extent that it is often impossible to hold on to the illusion of America—even in our imaginings. There was another example of this bitter truth on display in Washington D.C. this week—a stark reminder of America’s current reality.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/tDfEGCoxNVA”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]Several Republican Congressmen attempted to block the naming of a post office in honor of American icon and she-roe, Maya Angelou, even though she already has a postage stamp with her image, in all of her elder and regal glory.

Angelo, American poet, writer, civil rights activist, mother, sister and friend lived her life painting the songs of her people and recording the ebb and flow of her personal journey with words on paper as vibrantly inspirational as the woman who wrote them. Angelou passed away in May, 2014, at the age of 86.

Born in the south and raised on the bitter teet of Jim Crow, Maya lived her life out loud and in the process gained the respect of the international community; the admiration of a nation; and the love of her people. It is exactly because of who Angelou was and the esteem bestowed upon her that many were frustrated when a routine action to name a post office in her honor became a point of vitriolic-partisan-grandstanding. With every Republican act of this nature it is even more apparent that in today’s political environment nothing is politically sacred—even, the cherished memory of an 86 year-old wisdom keeper.

When the Maya Angelou’s bill came to the floor of the House of Representatives, nine Republicans voted against it, while another voted present (about the same as a no vote but softer).

The reason for the no vote given by one of the congressmen evoked a chilling flashback to the McCarthy Era that rose to prominence on the heels of World War II when some American fear-mongers fixated on the need for a new and imaginary enemy—communism.

A spokesperson for one of the Congressmen, Andy Harris of Maryland, said Harris voted ‘no’ because Angelo, he alleged, was a communist sympathizer.  Harris was joined in this ‘throw-back’ political conspiracy by eight other congressional representatives who also voted no; and by proxy, voted against the accomplishments and the legacy of a woman who is due the honor.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”4616″ alignment=”center” style=”” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”” img_link_target=”_self” css_animation=”” img_size=”600×337″][vc_column_text css_animation=”” el_class=”small”]Maya Angelou stamp[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css_animation=””]Angelo was called a communist sympathizer because she supported Fidel Castro. She also took pride in her strong friendship with Malcolm X and in addition, she was a leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and active in civil rights. What these congressmen and those of their ilk condescendingly call a communist sympathizer –others proudly call a progressive hero.

According to New York Democratic Assemblyman, Steve Israel, the responsibility of naming post offices is one of the most benign and bipartisan duties undertaken in the House of Representatives. He also stressed, there is rarely any opposition.

According to Israel,”That’s why I was shocked today as nine Republicans voted against naming a post office after Maya Angelou, indisputably one of our country’s greatest poets, authors and civil rights activists.” He went on to express his frustration, “The fact that these nine members would cast a no vote shows a blatant disrespect and only adds to the damaging actions they’ve taken this year to reverse progress from long and hard-fought civil rights battles.”

In this instance, righteousness prevailed. Despite some ‘no’ votes, the initiative passed to name a post office in Winston Salem, North Carolina, in Angelou’s honor.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/E2S22Co2528″][vc_column_text css_animation=””]Angelou’s list of honors is expansive. Included among them the Presidential Medal of Freedom, three Grammy Awards for Best Spoken Word Album, Spingarn Medal, Marian Anderson Award, Two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work, Langston Hughes Medal, Quill Award for Poetry, Women in Film Crystal Award, The BET Honors Award for Literary Arts, Gracie Allen Award, the Glamour Award for Poety and most importantly, a place of glory, honor and respect in the heart of her community.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”grey” align=”align_center” style=”” border_width=”” el_width=””][vc_column_text css_animation=””]Feature photo: Maya Angelou recites her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the 1993 Presidential Inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton as President on January 20, 1993. Courtesy; William J. Clinton Presidential Library.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Avatar photo

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.