2 The Compass Friday, December 5, 1997
M o| £Kl/:
by Frank Scott and Damon Lynn
Were you satisOed with this year's Homecoming activities?
Freshman, Plumouth, N.C.
"No, it was not enough entertainment. The things
during homecoming week were exciting, but Home
coming itself wasn't."
Freshman, Ahoskie, N.C.
•'It was not what I expected it to be. 1 expected a
more spirited atmosphere and a lot more unity
among the student tiody.''
Freshman, Oak City, N.C.
"Yes. I enjoyed the festivities and alt the
Sophomore, Spring i-iope, N.C.
"No. Last year there were more posters. No one
was interested in the concert. Everyone was
Angelou’s poetry transforms student’s life
by creating beauty out of ‘pain, suffering’
by Angela Hathaway
When I first heard the poem, "Phe
nomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou,
Oprah Winfrey read it on the Black
Image Award Show several years ago.
I remember being taken aback by the
emotional strength the poem pos
sessed. I felt a connection to the woman
because her poem captured not only
the essence of a woman, but also the
essence of a Black Woman.
At that time in my life, I longed to
find a definition of "black beauty," and
there it was—captured in this poem.
"Phenomenal Woman" is a poem
built on the acknowledgment of inner
beauty and how it, too, can appeal to
others. As a child I never saw myself as
beautiful. I thought beauty was based
entirely on external features, which I
thought I lacked. I always thought that
being the skinniest kid in class through
out grade school was a disadvantage. I
thought that boys would never find
me beautiful or attractive for this rea
That's why Maya Angelou's poem,
"Phenomenal Woman," affected me so
deeply. Her poem inspires one to ac
cept the beauty within, and knowing
this gave me confidence.
Consider the lines: "Pretty Women
wonder where my secret lies. I'm not
cute or built to suit a fashion model's
size." Here Angelou rejects the image
of beauty that society demands; she
knows it doesn't apply to her. But she
is also strong enough not to care be
cause she has discovered her own
source of beauty.
How does an artist transform some
thing as private and unique as "self"
into something universal? Or, as
Emerson so aptly put it, "how does
one adjust the angle of vision between
soul and nature to express both which
is private and universal?"
Maya Angelou is a writer who suc
cessfully transforms her own life expe
riences into powerful prose and po
etry. She can accomplish this because
she has struggled and triumphed, and
because she has been able to create
beauty out of pain and suffering.
In sharing these experiences, she has
invited us into her life, her thoughts,
her feelings, so that we can enjoy her
experiences and leam from them as
'Triumph over adversity" has been
a constant theme for the African-Ameri
can in literature. Maya Angelou's work
offers vivid testimonial to this theme.
"All of my work, my life, everything
I do is about survival," she has writ
ten, "not just bare awful, plodding sur
vival, but survival with grace and faith.
While one may encounter many de
feats, one must not be defeated. In fact,
the encountering may be the very ex
perience which creates the vitality and
power to endure."
In a time when society looked down
on an individual with a dark complex
ion, and the struggle of the black fe
male was overlooked, Angelou broke
the silence and articulated her theme
of the refusal of the human spirit to be
When Angelou was a child in Stamp,
Arkansas, her grandmother tried to
prepare her with the knowledge that
the world would not graciously accept
her—not just because she was a black
woman, but because it was a time of
depression and oppression.
"Common sense, practicality and the
ability to control one's own destiny that
comes from constant hard work and
courage" were the lessons that
"Momma" Henderson taught Maya.
She would need these lessons to sur
vive a sexual assault by her mother's
boyfriend at the age of eight. This event,
and the brutal, resulting death of her
mother's boyfriend, drove her deep
within herself for years. It took the help
of role model Berthal Flowers, to help
her find the strength necessary to over
come this tragedy.
Angelou found redemption in the
power and grace of language—and art.
Critic Grace Collins admires the way
"Maya Angelou selects those events in
her life that helped her to grow emo
tionally, psychologically, spiritually—
the stuff of life that truly counts on
I admire this quality in her work as
well. I have gained a greater sense of
self-acceptance through the poetry and
prose of Maya Angelou, and the op
portunity to share some of the experi
ences in her life has helped me to grow.
As my mother would say, "No mat
ter how bad you think you have it in
life, there's always someone who's had
It's the way that those people over
come the worst that gives them the
courage and strength to be successful
in life. Maya Angelou's artistry has
changed the way I look at myself and
others. Her vision, expressed in poems
like "Phenomenal Woman,"has helped
me to appreciate what I've got, and to
work hard for what I want—in life,
love, school, and within myself.