Black History Month: Remembering Maya Angelou

Amber Iris Langston
February 4, 2015 | Amber Iris Langston

Maya AngelouFebruary is Black History Month and a time to honor the African-American men and women in our country’s past who have helped shape our society.

While there are so many potent figures who could be lauded in honor of such a day, I would like to make mention of one of my favorite and most inspirational artists, who left this world just this past May: Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in our own city of St. Louis on Apr. 4, 1928, and over the decades rose to fame as a fierce poet, author, dancer, singer, actress, and woman warrior. Notably, Angelou was a women who pushed many boundaries placed upon her. And so when it came to marijuana, she did not shy away from the topic.

In the second installment of her autobiography entitled, Gather Together in My Name, Angelou writes of her experience with the cannabis plant:

“Smoking grass eased the strain for me. I made a connection at a restaurant nearby. People called it Mary Jane, hash, grass, gauge, weed, pot, and I had absolutely no fear of using it….

“From a natural stiffness I melted into a grinning tolerance. Walking on the streets became high adventure, eating my mother’s huge dinners an opulent entertainment, and playing with my son was side-cracking hilarity. For the first time, life amused me….

“I disciplined myself. One joint on Sunday and one on the morning of my day off….After an hour the hysteria of the high would abate and I could trust myself in public. (p. 154).”

In her lifetime, Maya Angelou received over 50 honorary degrees, three Grammys, the Lincoln Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Arts, and spoke at the 1993 Presidential Inauguration.

Maya Angelou was a person who carried the stigma of an outcast, yet embodied the deep and spiritual values of this country’s foundation which she expressed through her art and poetry. When speaking about cannabis issues, I always try to emphasize how damaging it can be psychologically to call someone a “druggie” or how damaging it can be literally to label them a “criminal”. Maya Angelou was a person who understood that we must respect everyone, and that we must include everyone in creating this world together. She was the ultimate humanitarian and social rights activist, and she used cannabis.

“I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.” – Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

This article appeared in the February 3, 2015, edition of the Show-Me Cannabis email newsletter.