Just shy of the five-year anniversary of her passing, author and activist Maya Angelou has gone viral. Recently, an interview from 1990 has emerged of the poet correcting a young woman, who addressed her by her first name, “Maya.”
The video, originally posted by Piérre Phipps, shows Angelou on a talk show, in which a younger Black audience member asks her a question about interracial relationships. After thanking the young woman for the question, Angelou proceeds to say, “And first, I’m Miss Angelou. I’m not ‘Maya.’ I’m 62-years-old. I’ve lived so long and tried so hard that a young woman like you, or any other, has no license to come up to me and call me by my first name.”
I can’t wait to turn 30 so I can read one of yall for calling me by my first name like this: pic.twitter.com/ym71DkWCNn
— Mr. Girth of a Nation (@PrinceCharmingP) March 14, 2019
The legendary poet then eloquently explain to the woman, “That’s first. Also, because at the same time, I’m your mother, I’m your auntie, I’m your teacher, I’m your professor. See?”
The post, which has garnered close to one million views since being posted on Thursday, was accompanied by a caption from Phipps, that read:
“I can’t wait to turn 30 so I can read one of yall for calling me by my first name like this.”
While seemingly innocent enough, the late Angelou’s response sparked a major debate on social media, with some people being for Angelou’s request for respect, and others feeling it was harsh.
In a statement to Newsweek, Phipps said he was “shocked” at the response his tweet got, siding with the late Angelou.
“People fight hard to be respected and to have people address them in ways they want to be addressed. Whether it’s a Ph.D. graduate that wants to be addressed as doctor, a transgender woman that wants to be addressed as ‘she/her’ or a 62-year-old poet that wants to be addressed as ‘Ms. Angelou,'” Phipps said. We must respect people’s wishes!”