Maya Angelou: “Because if You Were Black You Never Felt Really Safe”

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The racial divide that exists in communities like Ferguson, Missouri, and the effect it has on the lived experience of white and black people, reminded us of a conversation from last week’s show in which poet Maya Angelou remembers how, as a little girl, she hated going to the white neighborhood in her hometown of Stamps, Arkansas, because she felt unsafe and unprotected there.

While contemplating the train tracks that served as the physical boundary between the segregated neighborhoods, Angelou tells Bill:

“This was more or less a no man’s land here… If you were black you never felt really safe when you simply crossed the railroad tracks… And I used to have to walk over here. Oh gosh, I hated it. I had no protection at all over there. I had an idea of protection on this side. I had my grandmother on this side. I had the church, my uncle, and all my people were on this side. So I had an idea of protection, but there I would be all alone and I loathed it, crossing those railroad tracks.”

Those words were spoken by Maya Angelou in 1982, and sadly, not a whole lot has changed 32 years later, as evidenced in Ferguson this week. As Jackie Summers points out in this tweet that has been retweeted 35,633 times since yesterday morning, we still have a long way to go.


Watch this week’s show with Maya Angelou talking about hate, racism and the power of love »

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The full video of this Creativity episode can be purchased for educational purposes through Films Media Group. For more information, contact the production company, IPF Media.

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  • Anonymous

    I would imagine people of any color or race have those feelings going into the unknown. I remember 25 years ago when I brought my brand new husband with me to a Mexican community I had been coming to for about 15 years. When we got off a boat at a remote beach we were the only non Mexican people there. My husband looked at me and asked if we were safe. I did not understand why he would ask that. These people were my friends. It was the unknown to him. He now laughs at how silly he must have sounded.

    I am truly sorry anyone needs to have those fears whether they are real or not.