There are so many reasons to idolize and admire this woman. The grace and artistry of her words, for one, inspire me as a writer beyond possible explanation. But her perspective expressed through those words is what truly resonates – makes you feel. It makes you reflect on your own life, on all the ways that you can be better. Not just the message that we must not let others bring us down, and not just that we must be tolerant of the others in our lives who do. Not just that we must make the choice to rise above challenges. But that we must strive for all of the above with the understanding that we are all human.
One of my favorites and one of her most popular poems, “Still I Rise.” I especially love how she delivers it. Whenever I feel defeated I read this poem, and now, I’ll just listen to this:
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 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.
Her positivity, her light, is contagious. May you rest in sweet paradise, Maya Angelou. Your legacy lives on in the hearts and souls of so many you’ve inspired.