Maya Angelou Reacts To Zimmerman Trial, Evokes Civil Rights Era

“What is really injured, bruised, if you will, is the psyche of our national population."

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Author, poet, and activist Maya Angelou was shaken by the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial, saying it shows “how far we have to go” as a country. “That one man, armed with a gun can actually profile a young man because he is black and end up shooting him dead…It is so painful,” Angelou said in an interview with TIME Monday.

The case, which was decided Saturday, has caused deep divisions across the country. Some believe the verdict was a grave injustice. Others believe Zimmerman was acting in self-defense and had every right to stand his ground against Trayvon Martin.

Angelou, however, believes the verdict’s impact will affect people from all communities across the country. “What is really injured, bruised, if you will, is the psyche of our national population,” Angelou said. “We are all harmed. We are all belittled, and we give to the rest of the world more ammunition to sneer at us. “

Since the verdict people have stepped out in protest in cities across the country, echoing cries of “No Justice, No Peace,” on behalf of the slain teen. Angelou said the acts of protest evoke memories of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington, which is approaching its 50th anniversary.

Angelou, who received the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000, worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was led by Dr. King, during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1993, she delivered the inaugural poem for incoming President Bill Clinton.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, King delivered the celebrated speech during which he said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

Decades later, Angelou reflected on those words. “It is of interest that we are now celebrating that speech at the same time that there are people in the street again all over the country protesting the Zimmerman trial,” Angelou said. “It is amazing that it could happen actually 50 years ago.”