I was 14 the first time I heard about Maya Angelou. It was during that critical time my development when I read and recited the poem “Phenomenal Woman” for a school competition. I read that poem at a time when I was dealing with changing relationships, a changing body and struggling with who I was and who I wanted to be. I’ve recited that poem a million times since then it would seem, and I’ve recited others; “Still I rise”, and “When I think about myself” to name a few. I’ve read and reread “I know why the caged Bird Sings” and every time Maya Angelou has been honored, or given a speech, I’ve paid attention and listened carefully.
61 years my senior, Maya Angelou has been one of my longest standing role models. Not only did her words help me to learn to express myself through language, but they helped to affirm me. They made me believe that in spite of it all, I could rise, I was phenomenal, and that though I should do my best, I should remember to take things lightly by laughing at myself in the process from time to time.
“Not only did her words help me to learn to express myself through language, but they helped to affirm me”
Her story was and is a continuous reminder of all we can achieve and be when we believe in God and believe in ourselves.
Maya didn’t think she was beautiful when she was born with her short hair, broad nose and slanted eyes. Maya’s parents got a divorce. Maya was raped. Maya was mute. Maya had a son out of wedlock. Yet Maya didn’t make excuses, instead the whole world learned her name and her story. Maya wrote, and spoke and danced and acted. Maya lived and taught abroad. Maya marched with Dr. King. Maya loved her country. Maya served others with her words!
She never sat in political office, she wasn’t CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, but she used her gifts to bring healing and love to the world. Her story is a reminder that bad can be turned to good, messes can be made messages and every test can lead to testimony.
I am deeply saddened by her death, and saddened that I will never get to meet the woman who without knowing me, helped make me who I am. I honor her today, and I ask that you use this #womanishwednesday to honor her with me.
This phenomenal woman who taught me that beauty isn’t about what others can see, but about one’s inner mystery. The woman whose words remind me to rise in spite of the past and to give my best because in “bringing the gifts my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” Who cried daily when thinking about the way God loves her, and used that love to love others. The woman who truly made me believes that I could impact the world with my words.
Maya Angelou we will miss you. God truly placed you here in the right time and right season to bring healing to a people truly scarred by the color of their skin. Thank you for your work and your words. Thank you for teaching us about the power of love. Thank you for reminding us that anything is possible. I know why the caged bird sings, it sings because it has hope in life beyond the cage.
Today God has released you from the cage of this earth. Go on and take your rest with the God who loves you best. But please note;
We will write you down in history
Not with bitter, twisted lies,
But with great love and admiration
Until the day we rise.