I recently watched the episode of Iconoclast featuring poet and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou and comedian Dave Chappelle. At one point, they discussed the importance processing anger into media, art, and conversation. This is something we we shown repeatedly in class through other artists and discussed in the shadow of the Trump election, so I wanted to share it here. Chappelle asks Angelou about growing up during the 1960s, specifically citing the numerous key assassinations during that time:
Chappelle: What does that do to a generation, having lived through that and having known those people? If this was me, I imagine I’d still be angry. I’d be angry with my country, I’d be angry with anybody who let that happen to my friends.
Angelou: If you’re not angry, you’re either a stone, or you’re too sick to be angry. You should be angry.
Chappelle: But what do you do. . .
Angelou: Now mind you, there’s a difference. You must not be bitter.
Chappelle: That’s a hard. . .(laughs)
Angelou: Now let me show you why. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger, yes, you write it, you paint it, you dance it, you march it, you vote it, you do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.
I related to what Chappelle expressed about feeling angry with my country, but also to what Angelou said about understanding that bitterness does exactly the opposite of what you want it to. I find that I am able to process my anger through music and discussion with people who have different experiences than I do to understand how their circles interpret the news around them. I’d love to know, how do you all process your anger, disgust, or bitterness with what is going on around you, and how do you “use it?”
Watch the whole thing: Iconoclast: Dave Chappelle + Maya Angelou [Full Episode] – YouTube