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
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.
– Maya Angelou (1978)
Today, the world has lost an icon. Dr Maya Angelou has passed away aged 86. She lived a good life, a full life, a fulfilled life.
Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St Louis, Missouri and raised between her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas and her parents in San Francisco, she would go on to become one of the greatest voices of our time, for many generations. A truly great American. She survived rape at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend at age seven and was mute for six years afterwards because she felt speaking up about the rape led to his death- he was found beaten to death after serving a short sentence for the crime.
“I thought my voice killed him. I killed that man because I told his name.”
During those years, she read incessantly and words became her refuge.
Words would become an intricate part of her legacy. Words that gave us hope when she spoke. From Maya Angelou, words mean more, feel more, push you to do more, to want to be more. They demand that you be nothing short of amazing in living your life. Her words ignite passion; unapologetic and powerful and when laced with that delightful smile of hers, beautiful.
Her words would go on to become a testament of her life and so much more. Despite the hardships- at age 17 she became a single mother to a son and had to work some unpleasant jobs to make ends meet; a waitress, brothel manager, singer, dancer, prostitute- she went on to become one of the most acclaimed writers. Her groundbreaking autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (1969), spent years on book charts and remains one of the most significant works ever written. She was a teacher, a feminist, an activist, a revolutionary, a visionary…
I say this again with a heavy heart, because Dr Maya Angelou was one of those who should have been with us eternally, today the world has lost an icon but we will forever be thankful that we witnessed the greatness of this most Phenomenal Woman.
Rest In Peace, Dr Maya Angelou. Thank you for a life well lived for there is truly no grief in it.