Blast From the Past: Dr. Maya Angelou

Legendary poet, singer, and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou graced The Paramount’s stage in 2007. “Her presence, physically and spiritually, was so commanding even in that stage of her life,” shared Cat Ratliff, The Paramount’s Box Office, Education & Outreach Assistant. “We were all blessed.”

The Paramount’s Production Manager, Robert Benjamin, did some digging and managed to find the call sheet from that night – check it out!

Robert recalls that Dr. Angelou couldn’t see over the lectern while sitting. “It was too hefty for her to adjust, so Kyle Rodland [stagehand] rearranged everything for her in front of the audience,” Robert said. “Dr. Angelou embraced the moment, making it more comfortable for everyone, by cracking a joke with him, and they laughed together as he walked off the stage. There’s a really good photo of Kyle looking back at her as he was walking through the curtains.” (We found the photo!)

One of our favorite moments from the night was Dr. Angelou’s presentation of “Still I Rise.” As Cat put it so graciously, “It is so iconic that poem is what we associate with her immediately.” We hope you will take a moment to share this memory with us:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Photos by Rob Garland Photographers