Thursday, March 4, 2010

EBR Discusses Maya Angelou

Among the thousands of photographs that Eugene B. Redmond has taken of well known artists, he has perhaps documented Maya Angelou, Quincy Troupe, and the late Katherine Dunham more than any others. Redmond's Angelou photographs constitute a remarkable visual history that spans about 40 years.

An early image shows Angelou opening a present at a small gathering for her birthday in 1976; and then, a 2008 image shows Angelou celebrating her 80th birthday at a spectacular party hosted by Oprah Winfrey. Between that 1976 party and the 2008 one, Redmond photographed Angelou thousands of times, at her home in North Carolina and all across the country as she gave readings, attended conferences, and relaxed with friends.

This week's video features Redmond reading one of his tribute poems, which focuses on Angelou.

Mood Maya Kwansaba

she feeds eyes, ears, & skies with
dancing loaves of poetry--baked in aware
nests of Stamps, St. Louis, San Francisco
Porgy and Bess--then, fore-tasting
purple Alice (s) & blue Toni (s), she uncages
Dunbar's lyrical feasts in Nasser's Egpyt, Nkrumah's
Ghana, MLK's USA & Every Woman's Kitchen.

Some notes on the poem. First, it's a kwansaba, a poetic form created by the Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club in 1995. A kwansaba contains seven lines with no more than seven words in each line, and each word is less than letters, unless it's a proper noun.

Angelou was born in St. Louis, MO, and at the age of 8, she moved to Stamps, Arkansas. In her early teens, she moved to San Francisco. A dancer and actress, she toured Europe with Porgy and Bess in 1954 and 1955. Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of her literary influences; the title of her autobiography I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings comes from a line in Dunbar's "Sympathy."

Angelou lived in Egypt and Ghana, and Martin Luther King, Jr. appointed her Northern Coordinator for the prominent civil rights organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "All those places and events," Redmond told me, "are somehow brought up in this little poem, this kwansaba."

Related content: Eugene B. Redmond and the EBR Collection

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