Exploring Maya Angelou’s Hawaii ties

Maya Angelou

Well-known poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86.

At one point, Angelou even called Hawaii home. It’s reported she came to Hawaii in the mid-’60s to recover from the death of her friend, Malcolm X.

Her presence left a resounding impact for many in the islands, including community activist Marsha Joyner.

“She put it all out there. This is the way she is. This is what’s so, and I think that’s why people loved her,” Joyner said, “because she did tell the truth, but without anger.”

Angelou was a poet, author, singer, dancer and — according to several accounts — the first female cable car driver in San Francisco.

Her book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.

Joyner had several opportunities to spend time with Maya Angelou. She told KHON2 Angelou emphasized, quietly, how important it is for the next generation to remember what happened in America during the turbulent ’60s.

“At the Democratic convention last weekend, when I talked about Fannie Lou Hamer breaking open the doors to the Democratic party, they didn’t know that,” Joyner said. “They didn’t know that there was a time when all the delegations to the convention, the national convention, were all white men.”

Angelou influenced many, including President Obama’s mother, who named his sister after the author. Her story is shared, as Joyner says, no matter what race or gender.

“She tells the raw truth without the anger, without the angst, and you’ve read so many stories about that era and it’s filled with anger and hostility and yet hers is not,” she said.

When Joyner first met Angelou, she confessed she might have gushed a bit.

“I said to her, ‘Oh, I just love your writing. I want to write, I want to write, but I don’t know how to write.’ And she said, ‘Sweetheart, can you talk?’ And I said yes, and she said, ‘Then you can write.'”

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