Amazing women in weed

March 6, 2024

Wednesdays are for Women in Weed!

Maya Angelou

Early Life

Poet, playwright, civil rights activist, author, and speaker Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson, was welcomed as the second child to her parents in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928. The first few years of her life were filled with chaos, and her parents split when she was just 3. Angelou and her brother were sent alone by train at ages 3 and 4, to live with their paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Just as they were settling into their new lives, their father returned just three years later to uproot the children and bring them back to their mother in St. Louis, when they were ages 7 and 8. At the age of 8, Angelou was sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend. After the attack, Angelou told her brother, who subsequently told the rest of the family. Her abuser was arrested and jailed, only to be released the next day. 4 days later, he was found murdered. It was after this that she became mute, feeling as her speaking up caused his murder. She would remain mute for almost 5 years due to thinking her voice could kill anyone. During this time of silence, she developed and honed her extraordinary skills such as memorizing, her love of books and literature, and her ability to listen and observe the world around her. Shortly after the murder, Angelou was sent back to Stamps, AK. to live with her grandmother again and attend the Lafayette County Training School. It was here, with the help of her teacher, Bertha Flowers, she began to speak again. Flowers told her “you do not love poetry, not until you speak it.” Flowers was also responsible for introducing Angelou to famous poets such as Poe, Shakespeare, Dickens, Frances Harper, and Jessie Fauset and her love for poetry grew.

First exposure to weed

In 1944, Angelou’s mother moved them and her brother to Oakland, California. It was there, at the age of 16, she became the first Black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. At 17, she became pregnant with her first and only child, a son named Guy. It was in 1946, during her late teens and after the birth of her son, that Maya Angelou first experimented with weed. She attended a dinner party and the host offered her what she was told was called “grifa”. She was taken aback at how amazing she finally felt after years of trauma and abuse. Speaking about her first experience, “The food was the best I’d ever tasted. Every morsel was an experience of sheer delight.” She speaks freely about her use in her second installment of her autobiography, “Gather Together In My Name.” “From a natural stiffness, I melted into a smiling tolerance. Walking on the streets became high adventure, eating my mother’s huge dinners an opulent entertainment, and playing with my son was side-cracking hilarity. For the first time, life amused me.” Cannabis use during this time was considered extremely taboo, but as with many things in her life, that did not stop Angelou from enjoying her new found freedom. She became a very disciplined, lifetime user, stating she enjoyed “one joint on Sunday, and one the morning of my day off.”

She married Guy’s father in 1951, much to the disapproval of her mother, as this was an interracial relationship. She began taking modern dance classes shortly after their wedding and eventually moved the family to NYC in 1952 to learn African dance. Their move was short lived and they returned to San Francisco the next year, followed by their divorce in 1954.

1954 and 1955 saw Angelou touring Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess. While touring, she made it her mission to learn the languages of every country she visited. By the end of the tour, she was proficient in several languages.

In 1959, she decided to focus on her writing career and moved Guy and herself to NYC. There, she met South African Freedom Fighter Vusumzi Make. In 1961, Make and Angelou moved Guy to Cairo, where she worked as an associate for an English language newspaper. When the relationship ended in 1962, she and Guy moved to Ghana, so Guy could attend college. Guy was seriously injured in an accident, and they stayed until he was recovered, in 1965. During this time, she was a University administrator, a freelance write for the Ghana Times, and wrote and broadcast for Ghana radio.  While there, she met Malcom X, and her pursuaded her to return to the US to help him build the Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1965. He was assassinated shortly after, and a devastated Angelou then moved to Hawaii to be with her brother.

In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. asked Angelou if o help him organize a march. It was postponed and then he was subsequently assassinated in her 40th birthday. Devastated again, she was encourage to continue writing to help ease her pain. It was then she wrote, produced, and narrated a 10-part series of documentaries focusing on the connection of blues music and Black Americans. That same year, she wrote her first autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

The 1970’s were a busy time for Angelou. Within the span of 10 years, she released Georgia, Georgia, the first screenplay produced by a Black Woman, she wrote music for artists, composed movie scores, wrote articles, short stories, TV scripts, documentaries, autobiographies, and more poetry. She also had a supporting role on the tv show Roots and met and befriended Oprah, with whom she remained very close until her death.

In 1981, despite having no degree, she was offered a lifetime Reynold’s Prodessorship of American Studies at Wake Forest College in Winston-Salem, NC. She remained there for the remainder of the 80s, where she is said to now consider her self a “teacher who writes”.

The 90s and 2000s saw a more political shift in her agenda, as she became a voice and support for the Democratic Party.

 

Death

While a specific cause isn’t given, Angelou’s end of life was full of constant pain from her dancing career, heart and, respiratory failure. Even though a he passed away at the age of 86 on May28, 2014, her legacy will continue to touch the lives of generations to come.