Hello everyone.

Aries Maya Angelou is an American author and poet who has been called America’s most visible black female autobiographer.  Let’s look at the leadership qualities of Aries through the words of Maya Angelou.  First an overview from Wikipedia:

Maya Angelou at the groundbreaking for the African Burial Ground, 2007. (Source:Wikipedia)

Maya Angelou is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences.   Angelou  was active in the Civil Rights movement in the United States in the 1960s and served as Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  She was a friend of and worked with Malcolm X.

Since 1991, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. In 1995, she was recognized for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List.

With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women able to publicly discuss her personal life. She is highly respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women.

In addition to a National Book Award nomination for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Pulitzer Prize nomination for her poetry volume, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, Angelou received a Tony Award nomination for her role in the 1973 play Look Away, and three Grammy Awards for her spoken word albums.  In 1998, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  She has served on two presidential committees, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008.  She has been awarded over thirty honorary degrees. [1]

What the experts tell us about Aries

  • The most important task for an Aries is to recognize that they have a separate, independent existence from the whole.  From the unity awareness of Pisces, Aries re-establishes the spark of the individual self.  Aries is sometimes seen as self-involved and self-referential.  Aries people can seem to take credit for others’ efforts and are impatient with those too recessive to keep up with them.Maya Angelou explains it this way: “Modesty is a learned affectation, put on from without, and very dangerous.  Life will slam a modern person against a wall and the modesty will drop off faster than a g-string will drop off a stripper.  Humility is the thing one wants, because humility comes from within out, not out on.” [2]

    (Source: Wikipedia)

    She goes on to say, “I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves.  Love liberates.” [3]

    And, “I’ve never felt the need to prove anything to an audience. I’m always concerned about who I am to me first—to myself and God. I really am. So I never have been very concerned about the world telling me how successful I am. I don’t need that.[4]

  • All of the fire signs are likely to be lively, outgoing, action-oriented, and warm.  When challenged they can be hot tempered and determined but their anger flares up quickly and burns out just as quickly:

    “I always knew that fury was my natural enemy. It clotted my blood and clogged my pores. It literally blinded me so that I lost peripheral vision.” [5]

    But she goes on to say, ”Bitterness is like a cancer; it eats on the host.  It doesn’t do a dern thing to the object. Anger is good. It burns things up and leaves nutrients in the earth. You should be angry at injustices and angry at brutality. We should be, so we can be angry enough to stop it.” [6]

  • Cardinal signs posses an ability to set specific goals and to go after them with all the strength at their command.Here’s an example from Angelou’s life:“I’m the first black female director in Hollywood; in order to direct, I went to Sweden and took a course in cinematography so I would understand what the camera would do. Though I had written a screenplay, and even composed the score, I wasn’t allowed to direct it. They brought in a young Swedish director who hadn’t even shaken a black person’s hand before. …So I thought, Well, what I guess I’d better do is be ten times as prepared. In every case I know I have to be ten times more prepared than my white counterpart.” [7]

Castle Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, U.S.A. (Source:Wikipedia)

  • Aries is perhaps the most cardinal of all the cardinal signs with its strong, vital energy.In 1998, Dana Kennedy of The New York Times wrote, “The door opens into the apartment of Maya Angelou, poet, professor, best-selling author, actress, playwright, producer and now, at the age of 70, first-time feature film director of ‘Down in the Delta,’’ which opens on Dec. 25.   ‘I don’t need much sleep,’ she explains, settling into an armchair.  ‘Four, maybe five hours is about it and then I’m ready to go’ [8]
  • Aries is the warrior/hunter archetype:  fundamentally aggressive, courageous, and risk-taking.“All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated”. [9]

    But she gives us an insight into this type of courage which is echoed in many Aries:  “I often rushed toward holocausts with an abandon that caused observers to think of me as courageous. The truth was, I simply wanted an end to uncertainty.” [10]

    And in one of her most famous statements she explains:  “[Courage is] the most important of all the virtues. Without that virtue you can’t practice any other virtue with consistency.” [11]

  • Aries seek constant challenges, big and small.Angelou gives us a hint of the idealism and fervor which drives Aries into challenging themselves throughout their lives when she says: “The dread of futility has been my lifelong plague.” [12]

    Fountain Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, U.S.A. (Source:Wikipedia)

    The Achilles heel of an Aries is their inability to back down from a challenge.  This was the impetus for Angelou’s initial and acclaimed first autobiography.  As she tells the story, an editor at Random Books had repeatedly called her inviting to write the story of her youth.    “The next time he called, he said, ‘Well, Miss Angelou. I won’t bother you again. It’s just as well that you don’t attempt to write this book, because to write autobiography as literature is almost impossible.’  I said, ‘What are you talking about? I’ll do it.’ I’m not proud about this button that can be pushed and I will immediately jump.” [13]

  • Aries people are the high-energy, high-impact movers and shakers of this world.When I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969, Angelou was hailed as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. Up to that point, black female writers were marginalized to the point that they were unable to present themselves as central characters.  [14]

    Scholar Sondra O’Neale insists that Angelou’s autobiographies present black women differently than literature had portrayed them up to that time. O’Neale goes on to state that “no Black  woman in the world of Angelou’s books are losers”, and that Angelou herself is the third generation of “brilliantly resourceful females” who overcame the obstacles of racism and oppression. [15]

    Her screenplay, Georgia, Georgia (1972), was the first original script by a black woman to be produced.   At the age of seventy, Angelou was the first African American woman to direct a major motion picture, Down in the Delta, in 1998. [16]

  • Aries people will speak out for everyone, especially the underdog.“Once I got into [writing autobiographically] I realized I was following a tradition established by Frederick Douglass—the slave narrative—speaking in the first-person singular talking about the first-person plural, always saying I meaning we. And what a responsibility!” [17]

A few more insights into Aries

  • Aries are often criticized for being impulsive.  But Maya Angelou gives us her own assessment of this trait:  ”I know I’m a workaholic.  It’s got to be some kind of compulsion or impulse. I don’t know where it comes from. Mostly I just think of it as a gift given to me.” [18]
  • Aries have confidence in their own abilities and in the best case this spills over into confidence in others:  “My son turned out to be magnificent,” she says. ”But then I learned about mothering from my own mother. And Guy says he learned how to raise his stepson from me. This works with family — it even works with my actors. Hands off. Just tell someone you love them all the time and leave them alone.” [19]
  • The Aries is often an independent thinker, someone who takes her own counsel.  ”I was once told that I shouldn’t [publish a line of greeting cards for Hallmark] because the person said, ‘You are the people’s poet, the most popular poet in the United States, and you shouldn’t trivialize your work.’   So when I hung up the phone and thought about it, I said, ‘If I’m the people’s poet, then my work should be in the people’s hands. There are many people who will never buy a book, but who would buy a card.’ So I thought no, no. I’m going to do it.” [20]

Still I Rise

Aries.  The fountain of life force, the flame of individuality.  The calm sea erupting into a geyser of thrust, intention, will.  The courageous warrior.  The spokesman for the downtrodden, the one with something to achieve, something to gain, something to prove, something to accomplish.

Aries leadership carries a strong individual stamp.  This is full, vital, energetic leadership with no ambiguity about who is in the lead.

Glyph for Aries (Source: Wikipedia)

Throughout my research on Maya Angelou I kept seeing the glyph of Aries in my mind.  The Aries glyph, shown at right, represents the horns of the Ram, but it also represents the uprushing fountain, rising from the waters of the previous sign, Pisces.  Out of the collective, the individual.  Out of sleep, wakefulness.  Out of dormancy, renewal.  Out of surrender, idealism.  Authentic leadership for Aries embraces these qualities.

The poem, Still I Rise, is one of Angelou’s most famous.  It has this same sense of energy.  To all of the Aries leaders, if this poem resonates with you, if you can sense these fountains within you, you are in touch with your authentic Aries energy, a gift to the world.

Still I Rise[21]

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Grand Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, U.S.A. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

"El Tatio" in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

For two more studies on Aries Leadership see:

Aries Leadership – Let’s Get Started!

Aries Leadership – Nancy Pelosi

For an Intro to Sun Signs and Leadership see this link to my other blog!

Have you seen my new blog? Discussing all things astrological, for anyone interested in real-life astrology, check out Ellen Longo’s Astrology Blog.

Do you have a question for Ellen? See the “Work with Ellen” tab at the top of this site for my Straight to the Point Response service.

[1] “Maya Angelou,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Angelou

[2] “Dr. Maya Angelou,” National Visionary Leadership Project, http://www.visionaryproject.com/angeloumaya/

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119,” the Paris Review, http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2279/the-art-of-fiction-no-119-maya-angelou

[5] All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Maya Angelou, Vintage eBooks

[6] “Public Lives; At 73, a Robust ‘People’s Poet’ Embraces the Prosaic,”  Lynda Richardson,  The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/01/nyregion/public-lives-at-73-a-robust-people-s-poet-embraces-the-prosaic.html?ref=mayaangelou

[7] “Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119,” Ibid.

[8] “HOLIDAY FILMS; A Poet, at 70, Ventures Into the Unknown,” Dana Kennedy, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/11/15/movies/holiday-films-a-poet-at-70-ventures-into-the-unknown.html?src=pm

[9] “Maya Angelou,” Wikipedia, Ibid.

[10] Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, Maya Angelou, Random House Trade Paperbacks

[11] “Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119,” Ibid.

[12] I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou, Random House Trade Paperbacks

[13] “Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119,” Ibid.

[14] “Maya Angelou,” Wikipedia, Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119,” Ibid.

[18] “HOLIDAY FILMS; A Poet, at 70, Ventures Into the Unknown,” Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Public Lives; At 73, a Robust ‘People’s Poet’ Embraces the Prosaic,” Ibid.

[21] “Still I Rise,” Maya Angelou, POETS.org., http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15623

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.