Renowned Poet and Author Maya Angelou Dies at 86

Maya AngelouMaya Angelou, the renowned poet, author and civil rights activist with the unmistakably regal voice, has died. The author of the celebrated autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was 86 years old.

Her death comes less than a week after Angelou announced she would not attend the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon, where she was to be honored, citing “health reasons.” Last month, she also canceled an event in Fayetteville, Arkansas, because she was recovering from an “unexpected ailment” that left her hospitalized.

Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, under the name Marguerite Annie Johnson, and was raised in Stamps, Arkansas, and San Francisco, after her parents sent her off to live with her grandmother in California when she was fresh with a white store clerk in Arkansas.

Between Angelou’s fiction, non-fiction, and published verse, she amassed more than 30 bestselling titles

Angelou was also a trailblazer in film. She wrote the screenplay and composed the score for the 1972 film “Georgia,” and the script, the first-ever by an African-American woman to be filmed, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

In more recent years, it was her interactions with presidents that made headlines. In 1993, she wowed the world when her reading of her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” was broadcast live globally from former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. She stayed so close with the Clintons that in 2008, she supported Hillary Clinton’s candidacy over Barack Obama’s.

She also counted Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as friends, and served as a mentor to Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey was starting out as a local TV reporter. When she was in her 20s, Angelou met Billie Holiday, who told her: “You’re going to be famous. But it won’t be for singing.

In North Carolina, Angelou lived in an 18-room house and taught American Studies at Wake Forest University.

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Rev. Bernice King Blasts Brothers at press conference over lawsuit

composeAtlanta, GA — Surrounded by family and supporters, the Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thursday morning held a press conference to address a lawsuit filed by her brothers. Her tone was reflective and steadfastly determined. King said she is disassociating herself from her brothers.

“I will always love my brothers, but we are of different minds and most importantly, different relationships with God,” King said from the pulpit of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. “I know my position is right. It’s about standing on principle.”

Her emotional speech, which clearly reflects her deteriorating relationship with her older siblings, comes following a lawsuit filed against her by her brothers, Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King III. The suit is asking a judge to force King to relinquish their father’s Nobel Peace Prize and “traveling” Bible, which was used during President Obama’s second inauguration.

The complaint states King has “secreted and sequestered” them in violation of a 1995 agreement that gave the estate of Martin Luther King Jr., controlled by the brothers, ownership of all their father’s property.

“They are hidden in plain sight,” Bernice King said. “They know where they are. But God put them beyond their reach.”

Clearly seeing herself as the guardian of her fathers and parents legacy, King said, “These items should never be sold to any person, as I say it, or any institution, because they’re sacred. I take this strong position for my father because Daddy is not here to say for himself that “My Bible and medals are never to be sold.”

In a blistering statement issued on Tuesday against her brothers, King states that ahead of the legal challenge her brothers approached her about selling “our father’s most prized possessions.” Neither of the brothers has publicly commented on the pending lawsuit.

Also commenting on the situation is Dr. Joseph Lowery, a major figure in the civil rights movement who marched with Dr. King, and said he was “deeply disturbed” even by the suggestion of selling King’s Bible and Nobel Peace Prize.

“I don’t even want to admit there’s a discussion about putting those items on the market,” said Lowery. “They are sacred items, not only are they sacred to the family but they’re sacred to the community. They represent Martin’s life work and commitment to justice and serving God.”

“I hope [the King brothers] can resolve whatever financial difficulties they have without selling these items.”

Though, the siblings have been involved in ongoing legal battles, significantly, this is the first time Bernice King has given a public response attacking her brothers.

“Without knowing the particulars and conversations it’s sad that they are not on one accord on how to handle this situation and are airing their dirty linen in public,” said Morris Tipton, of the National Baptist Convention.

“I don’t know the particulars and details but I am praying for reconciliation and for the family not to taint the legacy of their father,” said Rev. Samuel Mosteller, president of the SCLC’s Georgia chapter.

Still, he adds he agrees with King that these items shouldn’t be in the hands of a third party. “The value lost in that sale would be monumental and couldn’t be replaced.”

“I think there might be more to this story than we have heard because we are yet to hear from the brothers,” said Mike Scott, an Information Technology professional who lives on the outskirts of Atlanta. “That being said I think those items should be kept in the family.

Morgan Freeman won’t see ’12 Years a Slave’

Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman has become increasingly outspoken recently.

He’s weighed in on everything from the legalization of marijuana to Tea Party Republicans, who the Last Vegas star considers “racist.”

Now he’s sharing his thoughts on the critically acclaimed drama 12 Years a Slave.

Despite garnering stellar reviews and considerable Oscar buzz, Freeman intends to skip seeing the movie.

“I saw a television movie that was made a few years ago about the same character [Solomon Northup]. But I don’t particularly want to see it,” he told the Daily Beast. “I don’t want my anger quotient exacerbated, you know? Things are bad enough as they are. I don’t want to keep punching myself in the face with it.”

50th anniversary March on Washington, DC Set

marchThe District of Columbia is organizing several events leading up to the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington August 28, 2013. During a news conference at the African-American Civil War Museum Wednesday, Mayor Vincent Gray provided some insight on planned events.

The main event, announced by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network, is the rally and commemorative march at the Lincoln Memorial August 24. A separate march, planned for August 28, will include a march to the Department of Justice and a rally on the mall.

Before marching the main event at the Lincoln Memorial, officials plan a rally at the D.C. War Memorial near the National Mall. Rally participants will focus on full enfranchisement for District of Columbia residents, voting rights, immigration reform, LGBT rights and gun violence.

In the days and weeks leading up to both events, D.C. officials also plan to highlight people, landmarks and artifacts that were important to the 1963 march through a series of seminars, forums and social events.

The 50th anniversary March on Washington is just as significant as the 1963 march. Many of the issues surrounding jobs, justice and poverty continue to challenge many Americans, and residents of the District of Columbia remain disenfranchised by the federal government. District residents do not have representation in the Senate and have a non-voting delegate the House of Representatives.

“People understand the plight to which we are subjected in the city,” said Mayor Gray, “they are very supportive … the District of Columbia should be freed from this kind of bondage. How can a nation that prides itself for supporting democracy all around the world deprive the people of the District of Columbia of the experience of democracy in this city.”

Janaye Ingram, D.C. Bureau Chief for the National Action Network, agreed that district residents are disenfranchised and said that current issues make the anniversary March on Washington just as relevant as the march 50 years ago.

“In 2011 and 2012 we saw many voter laws that [sought] to disenfranchise voters,” Ingram said. “The fact that the Voting Rights Act was gutted in a sense; taking Section 4 and making it invalid. With the case of George Zimmerman and the verdict coming out, we need to address some of the laws on a state level.”

Ingram also mentioned women’s issues and unresolved immigration reform as platforms substantiating the need for continued diligence in the current civil rights era. America has made progress in the last 50 years — including the election President Barack Obama — but as the Mayor further explained, more has yet to be done.

“I think it’s wonderful to see the progress that’s been made over these 50 years – the fact that we do have an African-American president – but the reality is that we still have many challenges. Certainly the District of Columbia is symbolic of those challenges that still are before us,” Gray told those who attended the news conference.

“When you have unemployment at the level we have, disproportionately affecting African-Americans and Latinos. When you see educational underachievement at the levels we still have, especially disproportionately to those who would be defined as minorities, you know that we still have challenges.”