Gone too soon: Dr. Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

We interrupt these brain droppings to bring you important news:

Marguerite Ann Johnson, better known as Dr. Maya Angelou, renowned poet and champion of (black) female empowerment, joined the ancestors today. She was 86 years old.

For some, Maya Angelou was just a name. For others such as myself, who grew up hearing her rich, baritone voice ooze like molasses with her slow, deliberate cadence, she was a legend. Her book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was instant vintage, and an inspiration to me. Like Angelou, I was the victim of sexual assault at a young age. Like Angelou, I grew up in a southern town where black people were still, to a degree, seen as inferior. Like Angelou, I discovered an essential part of myself when I moved to San Francisco (twice!). And like Angelou, I used words to make sense of my world.

Her poems were life-affirming, especially to a black girl who was constantly bombarded by messages that she wasn’t enough. She saw all aspects of the human condition and used her words to seek understanding, rather than judgment.

There will be countless obituaries for Dr. Angelou, and the accolades will be well deserved and more eloquent than what is written here. I can only say what she meant to me, and for giving this black girl a boost of fortitude to make it through, I salute her. Rise to Paradise, Dr. Angelou. See you at the crossroads.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems by Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise.” Thanks for stopping by.

 

STILL I RISE

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

–Maya Angelou

 

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