Maya Angelou Documentary ‘And Still I Rise’ Set To Air

The new documentary film, “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” begins with her quote, “We must encounter defeats but we must not be defeated, but in fact it may be necessary to encounter defeats so that we’d know who the hell we are.”

Indeed, Angelou, who was literally transported with a tag on her arm and no adult supervision at the age 3 to Stamps, Arkansas, did not allow life to defeat her. She was a teenage mother who survived rape at age 7, had three marriages, worked with Dr. King and Malcolm X, and wrote a poem for a presidential inauguration. Angelou thrived with a new voice in each decade.

“Phenomenal woman wasn’t just something she wrote. It was who she was,” former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says in the film.

Indeed. Though most may remember Angelou as a poet and author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Kunta Kente’s grandmother in Roots or reciting the poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, the film sheds light on other parts of her life that are not as well known.

“Most will be surprised to know that there was so much more to her than what they thought,” says film co-director and co-producer Rita Coburn Whack, who spent five years working on the documentary.

The new documentary film, “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” begins with her quote, “We must encounter defeats but we must not be defeated, but in fact it may be necessary to encounter defeats so that we’d know who the hell we are.”

Indeed, Angelou, who was literally transported with a tag on her arm and no adult supervision at the age 3 to Stamps, Arkansas, did not allow life to defeat her. She was a teenage mother who survived rape at age 7, had three marriages, worked with Dr. King and Malcolm X, and wrote a poem for a presidential inauguration. Angelou thrived with a new voice in each decade.

“Phenomenal woman wasn’t just something she wrote. It was who she was,” former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says in the film.

Indeed. Though most may remember Angelou as a poet and author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Kunta Kente’s grandmother in Roots or reciting the poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, the film sheds light on other parts of her life that are not as well known.

“Most will be surprised to know that there was so much more to her than what they thought,” says film co-director and co-producer Rita Coburn Whack, who spent five years working on the documentary.

For example, early in her career Angelou, tall and lean, was a dancer and singer, known as Ms. Calypso. She toured with the Broadway play “Porgy and Bess” and while in Paris met author James Baldwin, with whom she would become lifelong friends. She wrote and starred in a 10-episode PBS series and was also the first Black woman member of the Directors Guild of America.

“The challenge was to bring something new to the table for people who knew about the [1993] inauguration while educating a new generation,” says Whack. “The real learning process was how to make it in such a way that was respectful of her time on Earth, the history of our generation and get new generations to be interested in her work.”

Fewer know about Angelou’s activism. After hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speak at the Riverside Church in New York, Angelou helped raise money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She then became the northern coordinator for SCLC.

In the film, her son Guy Johnson remembered a march Angelou led in New York protesting the shooting of an unarmed Black man.

“She had courage like few people had courage,” Johnson told NBCBLK in an interview.

The new documentary film, “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” begins with her quote, “We must encounter defeats but we must not be defeated, but in fact it may be necessary to encounter defeats so that we’d know who the hell we are.”

Indeed, Angelou, who was literally transported with a tag on her arm and no adult supervision at the age 3 to Stamps, Arkansas, did not allow life to defeat her. She was a teenage mother who survived rape at age 7, had three marriages, worked with Dr. King and Malcolm X, and wrote a poem for a presidential inauguration. Angelou thrived with a new voice in each decade.

“Phenomenal woman wasn’t just something she wrote. It was who she was,” former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says in the film.

Indeed. Though most may remember Angelou as a poet and author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Kunta Kente’s grandmother in Roots or reciting the poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, the film sheds light on other parts of her life that are not as well known.

“Most will be surprised to know that there was so much more to her than what they thought,” says film co-director and co-producer Rita Coburn Whack, who spent five years working on the documentary.

For example, early in her career Angelou, tall and lean, was a dancer and singer, known as Ms. Calypso. She toured with the Broadway play “Porgy and Bess” and while in Paris met author James Baldwin, with whom she would become lifelong friends. She wrote and starred in a 10-episode PBS series and was also the first Black woman member of the Directors Guild of America.

“The challenge was to bring something new to the table for people who knew about the [1993] inauguration while educating a new generation,” says Whack. “The real learning process was how to make it in such a way that was respectful of her time on Earth, the history of our generation and get new generations to be interested in her work.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

 

Johnson says his mother exposed him to “a world I would not have known without her.”

For example, the film features footage of Angelou and Johnson living in Cairo, Egypt and then in Ghana, where Angelou worked at a university. It was during this time she met Malcolm X. She had planned to work with the charismatic activist when she returned to the United States but Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965.

“She gave me an understanding of the quality of all human beings,” says Johnson. “Ethnicities differentiate us but they do not make us either better or worse. They merely make us different and make more rich the wonderful fabric of being human.”

Whack says Angelou was a “walking lesson in history and reconciliation.”

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