Dear Maya,

I must admit when I first heard of your passing, I was shocked.

Though I am not sure why.

What I mean is that although you lived a life that is equivalent to two, or maybe three full lives, there was something about you that seemed indestructible.

I would not have been a bit surprised if you would have lived passed 100.

I remember watching the TV version of your first autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

I was mesmerized. Your story is my story.

You see my brother and I were abandoned by our parents and sent to live with our father’s mother in rural Mississippi.

Although my grandmother was the symbol of strength in the face of crushing challenges, I still carry the feeling of inadequacy with me into my middle age.

Unlike you, I have yet to repair the relationship with my mother.

As a child growing up in Mississippi, thoughts and memories of my mother haunted me.

I often daydreamed that my mother would suddenly appear and take me and my

brother home with her to Illinois where we would live happily ever after…..

My how I envied you and your brother Bailey when you finally got to go live with your mother in the north (St. Louis)!

Just like you, I always felt that I was the ugly duckling born of a beautiful mother.

My dearest Maya,

Although there are many parallels in our lives, please know that if I live to be three hundred years old, I will never possess the intestinal fortitude to endure and survive the many “tests” that you have been given:


A teenaged mom…

Jim Crow…

But then again, If God meant for those adversities to be my destiny then I guess I would have had to endure.

But what I do know is that although I may have endured and survived, I would have never accomplished what you have:

Cabaret entertainer…

Civil Rights organizer…



Television writer, Director…




Maya, you are truly a phenomenal woman that no fashion model could ever compete.

I love you Maya!!!!!