An old African song says “When it looks like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.”
Tonight was the “An Evening with Maya Angelou” event—the headlining event for FSU’s 50 year anniversary after the racial integration of our student body. I had a very rare student opportunity; I was backstage for the event and had a conversation with Dr. Angelou in her “meet and greet” room. Only nine students were there, and we were allowed to take photos with Dr. Angelou.
I knew she speaks six languages, but I never thought I’d have a conversation with her IN SPANISH!
I can’t emphasize enough how much her writing, her speaking and my interactions with this extremely knowledgeable and awe-inspiring poet have changed me as an individual. There was a time I was modest. “Be careful of modesty,” she says. “Don’t be modest; be humble. Humility is saying ‘yes, I’ve done these things, but somebody else has already paid for me.”
Maya Angelou is my Mrs. Flowers. She has harassed me before, but only in a way that would make me a better person and a better reporter. Tonight, being backstage, I was asked several times “are you going to interview her?” I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I respect her too much. Yes, I’m a reporter, but I’m also a human being. I recognize that “backstage” is a safe space for her, and it would be horrible of me to bring a camera there and stick a microphone in her face. I’d have to just enjoy being able to meet her and talk to her again. She knows what she’s done for people, and she’s proud of it—she has every right to be.
“Know that you are already paid for,” she said. That means someone has already come along and paved the way for you to do the things you can do. Someone has already made sacrifices for your life, and you have to appreciate that.
I admit that I talk about Maya a lot, and I have so many more rainbows in my life than just her. I could not have gotten to where I am today without the help, support and love from my parents. They have been the brightest and longest-lasting rainbows in my clouds. Through thick and thin, black and white—they’ve been there. It didn’t matter what struggle or what circumstance occurred—whenever life made me break and call it uncle, I can call my parents and they will talk me through it.
The same goes for my sister, Rachel. “I smile because you’re my sister; I laugh because there’s nothing you can do about it.” There is so much truth in that phrase. Rachel and I grew up together, and we have been there for each other through it all. I don’t say we liked each other all that much from time to time, but we loved each other, and I knew she would always be there.
While I am admittedly much closer to my younger sister (probably because of how close we are in age), I still am thankful for my older sister Auburn.
At Florida State University, since June of 2008, I have made and lost several friends and close friends. I don’t even know if I could pick one “best” friend at FSU. I’ve had so many who have meant so much to me at different times in our relationships. All I can say is the past four years would not have been nearly as memorable or as amazing without the group of Seminoles I’ve gotten to know and love.
At Florida A&M University since 2010, I have also made several friends. There were twists and curves, and “white boy this,” and “white boy, that,” and it taught me there is still a serious problem with racism in our country—including racism against “white folks.” Now, I don’t identify as “white,” although my skin appears to be of Caucasian origin. I don’t identify as “black” either. I identify as “human” because that is all that really keeps us holding on as a society—the fact we’re all truly the same, just with slightly differences that make us unique. Don’t ever be modest about your uniqueness or your quirks. Be humble about that—acknowledge them and let them shine. It’s that kind of humility that will take you far in life.