He was serious and demanding in that way that American Idol contestants would have seen as bullying. There was a saying about his studio: “You don’t just sweat. You are sweat.” But you knew if you 1/2 stepped with the drum, with your movement, you were not giving the ancestors or the culture the respect, honor, and gratitude they deserved.
Before Jane Austen, and after Louisa Mae Alcott, I was enthralled with Maya Angelou. I was 13 years old. I had a summer reading list from the high school I would be attending in the fall. One of the books was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I read it. I saw myself and my mother’s younger self, and so many people I knew in little Marguerite’s world. The girl living in Stamps, Arkasas who would rename herself “Maya.” The book, and that new high school, were my life savers after two painful years at a public junior high school.
I would read all Maya Angelou’s memoirs from that moment on. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Makin’ Merry Like Christmas was my second favorite. I saw her walk into B. Smith’s at Union Station in DC. She would have a limo drive her from Winston-Salem, NC, drop her off at Union Station, and have a drink at the bar before taking the Amtrak train to New York where she would kick off her shoes in her brownstone in Harlem. How cool is that?! Phenomenal eclectique woman! Dance with the ancestors! Well done sister girl!