In this second of two programs celebrating the life and work of the late Maya Angelou, Bill Moyers revisits a 1988 documentary in which he and Angelou attended a conference on “Facing Evil,” held in the Hill Country of central Texas. Evil was a topic about which Angelou, the victim of childhood rape and virulent racism, had a lot to say.
Rape caused her to retreat into silence for five years, she said, and was “a dire kind of evil, because rape on the body of a young person more often than not introduces cynicism, and there is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing. In my case I was saved in that muteness, you see, in the sórdida, I was saved. And I was able to draw from human thought, human disappointments and triumphs, enough to triumph myself.”
Angelou recites the lyrics of a song she wrote for Roberta Flack about her crippled Uncle Willie, who made sure she and others knew their lessons and “left for our generation and generations to come a legacy so rich.” And she tells the conference, “We need the courage to create ourselves daily, to be bodacious enough to create ourselves daily — as Christians, as Jews, as Muslims, as thinking, caring, laughing, loving human beings,” she says. “I think that the courage to confront evil and turn it by dint of will into something applicable to the development of our evolution, individually and collectively, is exciting, honorable.”