Appreciations

Molly Ivins Shook the Walls With Her Clarion Call

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By Maya Angelou
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, February 2, 2007

Up to the walls of Jericho
She marched with a spear in her hand
Go blow them ram horns she cried
For the battle is in my hand

The walls have not come down, but they have been given a serious shaking.

That Jericho voice is stilled now.

Molly Ivins has been quieted.

The writer and journalist, dearly loved and admired by many, hated and feared by many, died of cancer in her Texas home on Jan. 31, 2007.

The walls of ignorance and prejudice and cruelty, which she railed against valiantly all her public life, have not fallen, but their truculence to do so does not speak against her determination to make them collapse.

Weeks before she died, she launched what she called "an old-fashioned newspaper crusade" against President Bush's announcement that he was going to send more troops to Iraq.

She wrote, "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. Every single day every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. We need people in the streets banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it now!' "

Years ago there was a fundraising gala for People for the American Way in New York, and Molly Ivins was keynote speaker. I was a loyal collector and serious Ivins reader, but I had not met the author. Another famous journalist, who was to have introduced her, had his flight canceled in a Southern city. Norman Lear, founder of the organization, asked me to introduce her. I did not hesitate. I spoke glowingly about Ms. Ivins for a few minutes, then, suddenly, a six-foot-tall, red-haired woman sprang from the wings. She strode onto the stage and over to the microphone. She gave me an enveloping hug and said, in that languorous Texas accent, "Maya Angelou and I are identical twins, we were separated at birth."

I am also six feet tall, but I am not white. She was under 50 when she made the statement, and I was in my middle 60s, but our hearts do beat in the same rhythm. Whoever separated us at birth must know it did not work. We have been in the struggle for equal rights for all people since we met on that Waldorf Astoria stage. We have laughed together without apology and we have wept when weeping was necessary.

I shall be weeping a little more these days but I shall never forget the charge. Joshua commanded the people to shout and the walls came tumbling down.

Molly,
I am shouting,
With two voices,
Walls come down!
Walls come down!
Walls come down!

Poet Maya Angelou is the author of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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