Vivian Baxter, aka "Lady," re-entered Maya and Bailey Johnson's lives after they spent their early childhoods with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. There, Maya was raped at age 8, and her rapist was killed. Afterwards, she decided to engage in selective mutism; the only person that she felt safe talking to was her brother.
Hit in the face with a key ring attached to 20 keys by her mother at age 15 for coming home late, human brutality seemed to plague Maya during her early years. As an adult, she was beaten in the head with a wooden board by a rageful ex-boyfriend; she faded in and out of consciousness. In marriage, Maya learned to subjugate all of her interests to her husband, Tosh, who hailed the importance of himself and young Guy.
As a young woman, the lucrative call of strip dancing beckoned to Maya. The customers were surprised that she could actually dance well. Later in her life, she taught dance classes. Eventually, she was offered a singing gig, then went on a tour through Europe while playing an opera part in Porgy and Bess. The guilt of leaving her young son, Guy, nearly tore her apart.
Maya's mother was her cornerstone and support, willing to be there for her when she needed her. As a teenager, Maya's mother encouraged her to become the first African American woman in a service industry. After weeks of hanging out at the location, Maya's resolve was wearing thin, but then a person she had not seen before walked by and offered her a job.
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou, 2013
I was struck by the tenacity and iron will of a woman who endured such brutality at the hands of other people, yet she seems to carry no bitterness. Maya Angelou was a remarkable woman, and I admire her. As a girl, I was fascinated by her work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.