dancing, Maya Angelou & Amiri Baraka

And when great souls die,

after a period peace blooms,

slowly and always

irregularly. Spaces fill

with a kind of

soothing electric vibration.

Our senses restored, never

to be the same, whisper to us.

They existed. They existed.

We can be. Be and be

better. For they existed.

-Maya Angelou


I know Dr. Angelou as my parent’s neighbor on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  My father and she share April 4th as a birthday. In 1968, my dad, John Pattersonopens in a new window, and Maya decided to throw a joint birthday party.  Living on the same floor of the same building on Central Park West made this easy: they planned to open their front doors and let the party flow between the two apartments. They were cool like that.  And then at 6pm on the night of the party, Dr. Kingopens in a new window was assassinated and the world went into slow motion.  The celebration turned into a wake, a gathering of people both mourning the loss and reflecting on the life of a powerful leader. Twenty-four years later, in June of 1992, I walked across the stage after Dr. Angelou spoke to our graduating class of Spelman College. I remember the slow nod she gave me as I made my way across the stage and into adulthood. Again in 2007 at the funeral of Max Roachopens in a new window, Dr. Angelou spoke to us as we sat, listened and reflected in Riverside Church on the man who pioneeredbebopopens in a new window. In each moment, she was at the center of culture and most importantly good people.


Dancing: me and belinda

dancing: me and Belinda

Before Instagram and Twitter, before uploads and likes, there was social interaction. Good people made sure to be part of the co-existing lives of others they admired.  We reached out to one another and connected – in person, over the phone and through letters. We did things to show how we felt and we got involved. There was a steady and deliberate attention to the people and things that mattered most.

Good People: Michele Mattewman, Mar Fitzpatrick, MaryAnn Fusco, Jodie Patterson, Belinda Becker, Stuart Mattewman

Good People: Michele Mattewman, Mar Fitzpatrick, MaryAnn Fusco, Jodie Patterson, Belinda Becker, Stuart Mattewman  (DNice & Tyson Beckford in the background)


Good people make us better. With them, we dance, like we did at Bethann Hardisonopens in a new window‘s CFDA award celebration and we kiki with each other when things get rough. Wherever you find good people, you’ll find good vibration.

Read more on Maya Angelou and other Icons on my other-other site, Doobopopens in a new window.