Susan Montgomery had a busy summer; during the hot summer months, she devoted hours to organizing the resources for the Maya Angelou Research Library. The library’s theme, which was established in 1989 during one of Angelou’s visits to Rollins, is multiculturalism and equality. There are now over 250 resources in the library surrounding this theme. At the beginning of the event, Maya Angelou Research Library: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” on Jan. 14, Montgomery explained that the library held “a wide array of very informative material.”
The presentation, which helped kick off the Martin Luther King, Jr. festivities on campus, not only included the new exhibition of the library, but also a special showing of the movie based on Angelou’s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The movie and book were inspired by Angelou’s childhood and exemplify the struggle for equality when she was growing up.
Following the movie, members of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) hosted a dialogue where the members led the audience in a discussion both about the movie and about their ideas of equality and multiculturalism.
One of the most popular topics of conversation was the generational gap between those who fought in the civil rights movement and the young people today who are enjoying the benefits from past generations’ actions. “Our generation doesn’t understand that those people fought for us… and we take it for granted,” said Yvie St. Louis ’13.
Disability Services Provider Gail Ridgeway also added onto St. Louis’ comment, in regard to the generational differences: “There is a huge void where we can fit us in history… and when you can’t see yourself in history, what are you doing to do?”
The other main point during the discussion was that of the black identity. There is a moment in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings when the actress playing Angelou tells her brother that someday the color will drain from her skin and her hair will become long, blonde and silky. At the end of the movie, Ridgeway said, “it would be lovely if black people could reach beyond that stereotype… and not conform to looks.”
That moment in the movie seemed to impact the audience most of all because it illustrates what Martin Luther King, Jr. and Angelou were fighting for during their lives: an establishment of the black identity while breaking down of stereotypes.
It is safe to say that Maya Angelou is a mentor for everyone who tries to bring equality into the world. One woman summed up the evening beautifully: “We can’t live in a box. That is something Maya Angelou figured out for herself; when you figure that out for yourself, that’s liberation.”