Thursday, May 29, 2014

She Rises: Dr. Maya Angelou 1928-2014

My greatest joy was presenting Dr. Angelou one of my custom Caged Creations by Felicia at her Lifetime Achievement Awards Ceremony

My heart is heavy with the news of Dr. Maya Angelou's passing.  As a writer, her journey from childhood trauma to a prolific example of #YesAllWomen is profound and will forever be a gift to me.

That gift was reciprocated when I presented her one of my gift cages from my fledgling gift shop Caged Creations by Felicia.  First turned down by the company organizing the event, I interpreted their NO for "not through you" and called the mayor, who immediately recognized me as one the small business owners in our Midtown mall revitalization.  With verbal confirmation that I would be a guest of the mayor, I was instructed to show up after the serving of dinner, with gift cage in tow.

Upon my arrival, anxiety set in.  Would I be turned away at the door by the company?  Would the mayor not know I was coming?  I took a deep breath and announced to the attendant that I was a guest of the mayor. "Yes, he's waiting for you," was the response, along with a hand gesturing to an empty chair next to him.  As I walked quietly to the chair amidst the sold-out crowd, resonating throughout the room was the voice.  Her voice.  Anxiety melted away and was replaced by the comfort of her words, her presence, her spirit.

To be present for her acceptance speech was surreal enough.  But as she ended her speech to an ovation, the mayor leaned over and said, "You are to go up to the stage now".

"You're not presenting it to her?!" I sheepishly responded.  "No, you are," he said to me.  From the moment I stood up, an out-of-body experience gave rhythm to the applause.  Removing the gift cage from the large gift bag that concealed my intentions, the bird was literally out of the bag, as the theme was an homage to her famous poem I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

Encased inside of the gilded cage was a raffia-wrapped scented candle, a doll dressed in Kente print and black and gold vase nestled atop gold and red tulle.  Perched outside of the gift cage was a bird with brilliant plumes of green, yellow and red.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs, she turned to me and our eyes met.  I reached the stage and she embraced me.  I took this moment to whisper in her ear,  "I, too, know why the caged bird sings".  Then I was ready to RUN, as I knew the company organizing the event was definitely waiting to escort me out.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any more phenomenal, she held the gift cage up for the audience and announced, "Will you look at this?!  I want to do something for you".

What is happening? I think to myself.  "Young man," she points to the table closest to the stage, "Would you mind giving us your seat for one moment?", to which he responded by bringing his chair right in front of the podium.  "Have a seat; I'd like to do something for you", Dr. Angelou stated.

Obliging, I sat down in the chair to receive a personal recital of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings...

I did not walk out that event; I floated.  And could not go to sleep until 4AM.  I can honestly say that was the most amazing natural high!  The experience generated a newspaper feature, which brought business to my shop.  And a call from the mayor's office the following week informed me that the company organizing the event had actually commissioned an artist to craft a crystal sculpture, as did the city.  She left both crystal pieces in her hotel room and took my gift cage.

From one artist to another, there is no greater compliment.  Thank you, Dr. Maya, for appreciating my vision and giving me a reason to soar.

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