Today we learnt the sad news that poet, writer, and civil activist, Maya Angelou has died.
This post is a little left field of my usual content, but this something personal to me I wanted to share. Maya Angelou was a phenomenal woman and writer, he ability with the spoken and written word never ceased to stop me in my tracks. I can even remember the first time her work came into my life, but it was during my GCSEs at school and the work was her poem Still I Rise.
It is a magnificent poem, that is filled with defiant imagery, urging a never-ending battle with oppression and negativity with grace and pride as your weapons. The poem covers slavery and sexism with the occurring question of what is offending the recipient of the verse. “Does my sassiness upset you?” “Does my haughtiness offend you?” and “Does my sexiness offend you?” she asks. It’s so provocative, and after reading more about her story it just becomes filled with inspiring strength.
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
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.
I rise. I rise.
With the loss of Maya Angelou, the world has lost unmatched wisdom. Over the years she has shared some globally quoted sayings, many which are so relatable to us all. Spoken with a voice that is full of sorrow, joy, pain and strength. Here are some of my favourites:
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”‘
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
She was a giant on whose shoulders many people have been able to stand and achieve greatness.
R.I.P. Maya Aneglou