I didn’t fully appreciate Maya Angelou until I was in college. Coming into womanhood and dealing with a past of sexual abuse I was both liberated and confused. While I wouldn’t be ready to deal with the latter until I was much older. I wrapped my arms around the former with a love so true deep it isn’t until this very moment that I can fully appreciate how much Maya Angelou’s words are a part of who I am today and who I will be tomorrow. Her words are whispers behind thoughts and opinions I have about women, civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT movement.
Words that helped a multitude of stories get told for all colored girls, pariahs, daughters of the dust, women of brewster place and brown girls in brownstones. She opened the door for Black girls to be okay being Black girls. I was teenager before technology so my tweets were squeals of delight reading words that shook a finger at white society. It made me sit up and notice. I remember my roommate reading Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise out loud in college and how we gave each other high fives. Shit, we were phenomenal too. And while a darker side of me would start to whisper up when I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings I squashed it down, temporarily anyway. Those would be dealt with another day and when that day finally came Ms. Angelou’s presence was there too.
Phrases from poems that have become such a part of our culture that once said there isn’t a need to say anything else.
Still I rise
Indeed still I do. Rise above the ideas that a society had about me. Risen above the expectations I had for myself. And after many long inner battles that I had the privilege of being able to have I realize that I am the hope and dream of a slave. Because of the struggles of the civil rights movements I had parents who were strong and successful and have helped me pursue my passions so that I may be able in turn to give back what I have learned to some girl in some neighborhood that may not think that she has a chance to be something more that what society says she can be.
Still I rise
Ms. Angelou’s work was a lesson. A lesson for those that looked like her. A lesson for girls who were me- I am beautiful despite what you, society says. I am smart even when you say that I’m not. And most importantly I am not defined by what you think but ultimately I am who I think I am- a mixture of experiences and memories of ancestors that will help me fly on history’s wings.
Thank you. Thank you.
I will not waste what you left us.