Okay, it’s not as if Maya Angelou needs any more publicity. At eighty-one, she probably has achieved what many in her generation only dreamt about. Therefore, this will be last post I will make about the writer, until I finally meet her on Sunday. As I tap this out here, I do not yet know what I want to tell her if the chance ever comes. She’s old, I’m young. She’s American, I’m African. She’s a writer, I’m not, and it is most likely that my best of charms will fail if our promised meeting fails to occur in a place devoid of the tension of a gathered University crowd all beaming to see and have a piece of their icon. I can only imagine Wole Soyinka at a Nigerian campus and a Ghanaian scholar trying to get access to him. Well, maybe that’s not a most appropriate analogy, but it is somewhat similar, and in the two cases, it might equally be a difficult task to achieve.
Now here’s something else I found strange: the last time I checked on the website of the campus magazine for the news about Maya’s coming to campus, I was surprised at how much venom some students spewed as comments on Maya’s personality, talent and politics, and some expressed the wish that she should be stopped from coming to campus because of what they called her racism, anti-Semitism, and a few other isms. This was definitely strange to my ears as I have never read traces of any such opinions in any of her works that I’ve read. Her autobiographies are mostly stories of triumph over personal difficulties of race and gender. But what do I know? Here are students venting their rage and sometimes ignorance in response to a news story. Today, when I checked the news story, I found that comments have been disabled, I guess so as to prevent a bigger rancour that was surely becoming a sort of distraction to the news of the visiting novelist.
I have now returned from Dunham Hall, where I had gone to obtain my tickets to the programme, and where I discovered to my amazement that all the tickets have sold out. Completely. The organisers have just made arrangements for a hundred more seats, and I was lucky to get two of those. My hosts at the Office of International Programmes who had promised to get me tickets into the show are now nowhere to be found. If they ever come forward with any more tickets, then maybe I can afford to take someone else along to the show. But a most unfavourable part of this visit of the American Poet Laureate is the news that she might not be staying long after her talk to sign books or take pictures after all. Now this, if true, is just horrible, but I understand. She’s probably too old for all that stress of sitting though signings and photographs. But being young and tenacious, I’m probably too heady as well to let her go without a fight. Come, come Sunday!