Postage stamp to honor ‘Miss Calypso’ Forever

It is Women’s History Month and a phenomenal woman is being memorialized when spring breaks — less than a year after her death.

First acclaimed as Miss Calypso — prior to becoming the well-known Maya Angelou — she was known by a moniker that lauds the Caribbean and its music.

During the final days of Black History Month, the United States Postal Service announced that the poet, author, educator and calypso singer will be honored with a ‘Forever’ postage stamp.

“Maya Angelou inspired the nation through a life of advocacy and through her many contributions to the written and spoken word,” Megan J. Brennan, USPS Postmaster General said in a press statement.

At age 29, Angelou appeared in an Off- Broadway production entitled “Miss Calypso.”

The ambitious and enterprising young woman also recorded “Miss Calypso,” a 1957 album she wrote and released on the Scamp Records label.

According to Wikipedia, “the album was released during a craze for calypso music catalyzed by Harry Belafonte, the previous year. Angelou sings every song on the album, and she composed five of them. Behind Angelou’s voice, studio guitarist Tommy Tedesco and percussionist Al Bello created an exotic mood. Angelou toured in support of the album, performing calypso songs in nightclubs.”

Songs she recorded included: “Run Joe,” “Stone Cold Dead In The Market,” “Neighbor Neighbor,” “All That Happens In The Market Place” and “You Put It On Me.”

As a matter of fact, the album inspired her first feature film, “Calypso Heat Wave” which she starred and sang.

Launching her into another genre, she became Hollywood’s first Black female director.

“Her wide-ranging achievements as a playwright, poet, memoirist, educator, and advocate for justice and equality enhanced our culture,” the postmaster added.

Probably best-known for her poetic memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” the telling story details her life in the Jim Crow South.

That her photo image will decorate one of USPS’ perpetually priced postage stamps adds to those celebrating the legacy of outstanding Americans.

The agency did not disclose when the stamp would be made available to customers or the exact location and date for a first-day issue ceremony.

Born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, after her parents separated she was sent to live with her grandmother in a town in Arkansas, named Stamps.

Imagine that, the future fixture to guarantee domestic mail delivery actually lived in a place named Stamps, after James Hardy Stamps.

Throughout her life she achieved status as an author, professor, a Tony-nominated performer, an official with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a calypso singer, a dancer with the Alvin Ailey Company, a streetcar conductor, an actress, a screenwriter and a film director.

Although she was mostly known for her primary work as a poet, her recital ability reached millions and new generations when she read a poem at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.

President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

By her own admission Angelou said she suffered as a child. She said she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. The trauma of that criminal act prevented her from speaking for five years. She said literature helped her to break the silence.

When she spoke, she implicated the rapist.

He was found guilty and soon after murdered.

Angelou was a best-selling author of 36 books.

Her books include the poetry collections “Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?” (1983), “And Still I Rise” (1978), “Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well” (1975) and “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie” (1971) and the memoirs “A Song Flung Up to Heaven” (2002), “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes” (1986), “The Heart of a Woman” (1981) and “Gather Together in My Name” (1974).

Her last book was the memoir “Mom & Me & Mom,” published in 2013.

Angelou died last year on May 28 at age 86.

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