Maya Jama celebrates 'inspirational' writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou as she marks Black History Month

WE are celebrating the start of Black History Month this week by asking leading figures to tell us about their own heroes from the past.

The annual event celebrates the contribution and achievements of black figures in British life.

Here, telly host Maya Jama, reveals to Kate Jackson and Oliver Harvey how American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou inspired her.

'I WAS three years old when my mum explained to me why I was named Maya.

It was after the amazing writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.

So of course she has always had a very special place in my heart, and when I was asked to name my hero for Black History Month, it was always going to be her.

Maya Angelou has always been a huge source of inspiration.

As an African American woman in the ’60s in America during racial segregation, she showed unfaltering determination.

'HER WORK EMPOWERED'

She has been a significant force of change in how contemporary women live today. Her work empowered and gave voice to the African American community. Growing up and listening to her stories, I was encouraged from a young age to face my fears head-on. Without the drive she has instilled in me through her books, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

You get a lot of “nos” in this business, especially starting out, but I learnt from Maya and my mother to never give up and focus on the positives.

My favourite Angelou book is her 1969 memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. My mum loved it too. She was reading it while pregnant with me.

Not only did this book change the literary world and open doors for African American authors and women, it spoke to me on a deeper and personal level.

Her words so articulately describe how she dealt with the death of her friend, Martin Luther King Jr, and drew attention to her own personal struggles with racism.

The book really helped me process my feelings of grief and helped me to better understand racial division in inequalities.

The book is so powerful because she isn’t afraid to address difficult subjects like sexual abuse, rape and the traumatic experiences she lived through. It was revolutionary at the time it was published.

Although she was American, her inspiration has reached all corners of the world. Her works are often taught in schools in Britain, and rightly so.



Being such a strong advocate for the abolishment of racial and gender discrimination, Angelou aspired to make the world a better place. It’s incredibly important to have Black History Month in raising awareness and celebrating the contribution of people like Maya Angelou, and it’s brilliant that The Sun is focusing on this.

I think it’s important for young girls and boys to be encouraged to read and learn about influential women like Angelou.

If you’ve never read any of her amazing works and want a snapshot into just how much of a trailblazer she was, read a wonderful account of her in Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls 2, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo.'

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