Angelou’s poem, His Day is Done, is circulated in 15 languages as a tribute to Mandela ‘on behalf of the American people’
The American writer Maya Angelou has written and recited a poem in honour of Nelson Mandela, whom she met in the 1960s when she lived in Cairo.
In the poem, His Day is Done, Angelou mourns Mandela’s death, praises him as a modern-day David who slew a mighty Goliath and a Gideon, who freed the South African people. She also marvels at his endurance of racism and imprisonment.
Angelou, best known for the novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was also active in the civil rights movement, and worked with both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Mandela read Angelou’s books while imprisoned at Robben Island and also recited her poem Still I Rise at his presidential inauguration in 1994.
Angelou, 85, has allowed the US state department to circulate the poem in 15 languages, as a tribute to Mandela “on behalf of the American people”.
In the YouTube video, Angelou, wearing dark glasses, says Americans send their souls to South Africans “as you reflect upon your David, armed with a mere stone, facing down the mighty Goliath – your man of strength, Gideon, emerging triumphant.”
She continues: “No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again and bring the dawn.
“Yes, Mandela’s day is done. Yet we, his inheritors, will open the gates wider for reconciliation. And we will respond generously to the cries of blacks and whites, Asians, Hispanics, the poor who live piteously on the floor of our planet,” she says.
“Nelson Mandela’s day is done. We confess it in tearful voices. Yet we lift our own to say thank you. Thank you, our Gideon. Thank you, our David, our great, courageous man. We will not forget you. We will not dishonour you. We will remember and be glad that you lived among us, that you taught us and that you loved us all.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
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