I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 23 Summary
Juniors are strutting around town like they are already seniors, and seniors are walking around with major cases of senioritis. Parents are excited, people are buying new clothes, and the school is decorated. Once a graduation, always a graduation.
At the Store, Maya is the star. Sure, she is only graduating from eighth grade, but this is a big deal. It is a fresh start. She is at the top of her class, she is finally forgetting her rape, and even her hair is getting nicer. Fancy.
When the big day comes, everything is awesome. But then Mr. Donleavy, a white politician from Texarkana (yep, that's right on the border of Texas and Arkansas), totally ruins the mood with his speech. The speech is about how [switch to sarcastic voice] the white high school will be getting awesome new science sets and famous artists to teach them, but you know, black people are only good at sports so maybe they'll get a playing field.
The graduation is a bit gloomy after that fiasco, but everyone tries to continue as if nothing had happened.
Henry Reed to the rescue. This valedictorian begins to sing "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" and the entire mood of the graduation completely changes.
Angelou praises black poets (not Ray Charles) for being one reason black people have continued to survive.