Event pays homage to iconic writer and seminal poem

Contact Staff

Between the lines of Maya Angelo’s seminal poem Still I Rise, runs a thread that traces centuries of defiance and resilience in the relationship between people of African descent and Europeans from slavery, colonialism and well into this new world order.
Like at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994, the poem has given voice to victories and achievements big and small in the annals of time.
Today, the poem continues to resonate among those seeking to define progress and growth in the face of adversity. And it comes alive in Montreal on Friday, February 20 in a special Black History Month presentation by the United Negro Improvement Association.
The event will include a dramatic rendition of Still I Rise, by the Black Theatre Workshop, and several local artists and poets are lined up to speak to its theme.
Organizer Fred Anderson says it’s important that all Montrealers get to share in the central message of the pivotal piece of work in which Maya Angelou was able to capture the essence of the timelessness of our struggle.
“More than anything else, Still I Rise captures what we as a people are about,” he says. “It tells what we are about and whatever we had to respond to, we have been able to prevail.”
U.S.-born Anderson was one of hundreds of Freedom Riders who rode Interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in the early 1960s to challenge the non-enforcement of Supreme Court rulings that segregated public buses were unconstitutional.
He says the victories earned then, were all reflected in the poem, which “most importantly, tells that we’ll continue to rise.”
Several young and dynamic Montreal-based performers are lined up to bring the poem to life, including Odessa Thornhill, Coco Thompson and Jonathan Emile.
They will be supported by Dr. Clarence Bayne and Anderson who will be reading from their collection of poems and master saxophonist Julian McIntosh will provide the provide the musical backdrop to a setting based upon a village setting of story telling and performance. Mervyn Weekes will be the narrator.
Still I Rise is the titled poem in Maya Angelou’s highly acclaimed third volume of poetry, And Still I Rise, published in 1978. The poem was one her most referenced and was oft-times included in her many public appearances.
In 1994 it became one of the themes around which the United Negro College Fund celebrated its 50th anniversary.
UNIA present Still I Rise (an evening of spoken word, music, dance and theatre) on Friday, February 20, at the UNIA 2741 Notre Dame St. featuring Odessa Thornhill, Coco Thompson. Jonathan Emile, Black Theatre Workshop, Julian McIntosh, Dr. Clarence Bayne, Fred Anderson and Mervyn Weekes. From 6 to 8 PM.