So, Maya Angelou would have been 90yo today. I have always revered Maya Angelou. Her story..her history. Her dance. Her talent. Her perspective. Her rhythm. Her voice.
Because of her, as a teen, I started drafting poetry. I saw her on a TV show once, and I was captivated. How she carried herself with so much strength, poise and grace. Her voice, so deep yet so gentle. Her words so direct but not offensive.
I had never seen anyone like her on TV before.
As a teen, I would keep a small notebook that I wrote in, which I tucked under my pillow every night. It was my special writing place, where I could share my secrets, dreams, draft poems or scribble, or whatever I felt at the moment. Most times poems ran out of me; those that were savagely romantic or the few that were passionately sad. Also, depending on whatever I felt at the moment.
Being a teenage girl was tragic. Haha.
But, Maya Angelou. When I went to ‘google’ how to make Turkish Delights (yup), I saw the Google Doodle of Maya Angelou’s birthday and there scrolled my favorite poem. Still I Rise.
The first time I had heard this poem at school, it woke me up inside. I carried it with me all through time, because its message was just so perfect. For me as a woman. For me as a human. For me just because. I then read it to my daughters when we talked about the meaning of equality two years ago. Again, it burned me inside. And, of course, I cried reading her impactful words to them. They cried hearing her impactful words from me. Seeing it today brought me to re-read it, look her up on YouTube to listen to her speak it… and cry, of course.
I hope you all know this poem, and at the very least some parts by heart. I mean, this poem is everything inspiring. Everything empowering and just everything.
Happy Birthday to the great Maya Angelou.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod 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 backyard.
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
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.