Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rest in Power Maya Angelou

I shipped these two Maya Angelou books to Lesotho so I can have time to really savor them, to really cherish their words.

   During my teenage years, my adoptive mother and I regularly got into nasty arguments over nonsense.
   I’d always end up running upstairs to my room and she’d remain downstairs hurling her venomous verbal vomit.
    “You ain’t never gonna be shit you ugly little bitch!” she’d yell. “All you’ll ever be good for is a good fuck!”
   Infuriated, I’d storm out of my room and launch my own war of words.
   “You may write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies!” I’d scream while swiveling my neck. “You may trod me in the very dirt but still like dust I’LL RISE!!!!!”
   I didn’t need to say anything else. Those lines from Maya Angelou’s famous poem sufficed.
   That’s why I’m deeply saddened by the literary legend’s recent death at 86 years-old.
Angelo lived one hell of a life, wore many hats and was everything to everyone.
   The St. Louis native was a civil rights activist, writer, teacher, actress, journalist, singer, director, madam, prostitute, television producer, professor and teacher. She did it all.
   And she knew everybody. Angelou worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to fight for civil rights. And she was good friends with other famed writers like James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni.
   Naturally, Angelou gave black people, especially black women, a vibrant voice, even when she silenced her own after her mother’s boyfriend raped her when she was only 8 years-old. Angelou gave us a reason to smile and more importantly, the affirmation that we lacked absolutely nothing. No thing!
   I found a sense of myself—and my own voice--in her work, which was often rich, raw and multidimensional. Every black woman writer, self included, owes their entire career to Angelou.
   The Pulitzer nominee also contributed many gifts to the world, to humanity. She had extensively traveled the globe, spoke six languages and was courageous enough to fall in and out of love. In short, she lived life well and on her own terms, and gave us all permission to do the same.
   She showed me how to live my life, too. Simply gave me permission to just be.
As a young adult, I’d always keep Angelou’s book of poems “And Still I Rise” on my nightstand. I regularly read the poetry because in my early to mid-20s, I came to understand Angelou’s words. I was living a lot of what she wrote about: self-acceptance, love, pain, beauty and resilience.
   Angelou still influences me, even as a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Africa. I shipped two of Angelou’s books (“The Heart of a Woman” and “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now”) to Lesotho so I can take the time to really savor the tomes. I did and again, I soaked up the Medal of Freedom winner’s life stories and grandmotherly advice.
Maya Angelou gave the world eight decades of grace, humility, compassion and love.
   May she forever rest in power and more importantly, in peace.
   I am forever grateful for her life and her legacy, her work and her words. They were words that I used to fight with. Were words I used to hoist myself up from the depths of despair. Words that ended up blanketing me with the warmth and the comfort that only a ‘Phenomenal Woman’ can give.


  1. Very well spoken! I adored her also.

    1. Thank you, Inspired Canvas. Her death has really left me feeling sad but I'm thankful for her words and wisdom. What was your favorite work fom her?

  2. Thank you, Jennifer....I LOVE Maya so much...she is in my very marrow...each time I think of her as a young mute girl thinking her words had the power to kill, yet she has gone on to teach us all....well, my heart both sings and chokes with tears at the very same time. I remember seeing her in a big bed at Oprah's home, in pajamas, reading to Oprah, and I thought if I could choose a mother, I would choose Maya. She says that when she was mute, she was fascinated with listening to people speak and still the voice of others fascinated her and for me, well I could listen to her talk forever. When she came to Norfolk a few years ago, I was so excited to see her and bought a ticket for a young employee of mine, a woman of spirit and potential, who didn't yet know Maya....and oh, I wanted to share the wisdom and spirit and love. Her books and her poetry have meant so much to me, as a young girl who was a victim of abuse and as a young woman who was a survivor. In the last year I have been saying I really identify with the phrase "Wouldn't take nothing for my journey now", in new ways I am only beginning to understand in this, my 58th year. I can't say enough about how the grace and wisdom and love and VOICE of this magnificent woman has inspired me, and will live on through us. Sending much love to all in Lesotho....

  3. Hi Karen! It's so nice to hear from you!! I agree with everything you said about Maya. Like you, she's a strong example of womanhood and a beautiful spirit, so it doesn't surprise me that you admire her. She will indeed continue to live on through her work and in us all. Sending love back to you, and please tell everyone I said hi!