Rosa Johnson, niece and archivist of Dr. Maya Angelou, made a special trip to Albuquerque in December 2017. During her trip Ms. Johnson shared memories and stories about her aunt with the Crossroads for Women clients and staff and the Albuquerque community. She also dedicated our new Maya’s Place location in the northeast heights and visited with Crossroads for Women donors at an exclusive donor event.
At Rosa’s presentation, “A Conversation About Dr. Maya Angelou”, staff, clients, and community members enjoyed an hour of wonderful stories, poetry, and conversation. This event would not have been possible without our partnership with Reverend Sue Joiner and the First Congregational United Church of Christ .
Rosa answered many audience questions about her late aunt and the special relationship they shared. Some of the questions and answers are included below.
What was the best lesson your aunt taught you?
That God loves me. God loves you, baby–she kept reminding me of that. It takes courage to love and be loved, and to be consistently kind. She was always teaching lessons in humanity. She didn’t tolerate ignorance from anyone.
What’s one thing no one would know about Maya?
She was funny as heck! She loved tradition and ritual. She brought all people of all races, ages, and beliefs to the dinner table. She loved a perfectly set table. She left more houses fully furnished than people would know. If it wasn’t right, she’d leave. Maya would say, “I’ve left many a house but there’s still a home in me.”
What was Maya’s writing process like?
She would get a bottle of sherry, a bible, and a thesaurus–that’s all she needed. Then she’d check herself into a hotel and start writing.
What is your advice for a young woman of color today?
Do not be afraid. We’ve been through so much for than this. Get your work done and don’t give in to your anger. It’s not the way. Champion each other and lift each other up. Any act of goodness adds to the greater good and that’s what we must do.
Maya Angelou was a prolific writer and when asked, Rosa admitted it was difficult to pick just one favorite poem by her beloved aunt. “Not only am I her niece, I’m also a fan and her archivist,” said Rosa. However, Rosa said if she had to pick it would be Phenomenal Woman.
“Her writing shows who she was,” said Rosa. “If you want to know Maya Angelou, read her writing. I think her stories–her life–is one of hope.”