Remembering Maya Angelou, and the Lessons She Left Us

Maya Angelou– a pedagogical poetess whose words healed many hearts and lifted many chins– is most remarkable for the moral her life tells. Maya Angelou is a testament to the fact that it’s not how you start but how you finish.

Angelou had many titles in her life, but when most had “settled down” she was just getting started– illustrating that the darker the sky the brighter the star shines.  Maya Angelou was meant to be a figure of influence, she was meant to shine, and she did. But perhaps what is most remarkable about Miss Angelou is that she used her world to help her audience of black readers shine as well.

As a writer, Miss Angelou has contributed countless words of value, but this post will focus on three of Angelou’s most powerful verbal contributions essential to molding the black psyche in general, but perhaps most specifically—the black woman.

1. People tell you who they are—listen. Maya-Angelou-quotes-9

“When someone shows you who you are, believe them the first time.”

 

2. Confidence is beauty.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I’m not cute or build to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally,
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

 

3. Self-Actualization is the kryptonite to a world trying to beat the black body into a pedestal on which their false superiority stands.

Do you want to see me broken ?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my hautifiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard

 

4. The black collective has the innate ability to “rise” above all the smallness that attempts to consume us.

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 feat
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestor’s gave,
I am the dream and the hope of a slave
I rise
I rise
I rise.

In her transition, Miss Angelou has risen to her rightful place in the sky, her immortal contribution planting a seed of self-esteem the black body must wear as armor in a white supremacist world.

On what would have been your 90th birthday, I thank you Maya Angelou for planting a seed of confidence in the intellectual garden of our collective.

Black Power ❤

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9 Comments

  1. Hey CC!

    “Self-Actualization is the kryptonite to a word trying to beat the black body into a pedestal on which their false superiority stands”

    I like this quote.. it reminds me of an Erykah Badu lyric … when my n*ggas turn into gods— walls come tumblin’

    I’m beginning to think that’s why some white ppl call themselves supreme. It’s to counteract black Gods. Which begs the question , what happened to our ancestors super powers?

    Great article. I love Maya Angelou!

    1. Thank you BE! That book was traumatizing to me as an adolescent. Not sure if putting this on a middle school reading list was best without any critical framework. Your comment has inspired me to revisit as an adult this summer!!

      What did you think?

      1. I just read it for the first time, I went to a straight up White Supremacists high school, we didn’t read any black authors. I’m just reading these works as an adult. I also recently read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I can tell you, I have been going back and looking at movies I once liked and I missed all the blatant Racism in the movies. Now that I have become less confused I see the Racism. I feel the same way about these books, had I read these books as a young person I probably would have said I loved it but reading these books now with through Counter Racist Lens, I actually get a lot of constructive value out of them.

        Speaking of I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I thought it was tragic but I got constructive Counter Racist material from it. Same with the Bluest Eye. I often check to see how much white people liked the book, if white people love a book that’s supposed to be about Racism, my antenna goes up because white people would not like anything to help put them out of business. I don’t know if I would be comfortable with my children reading this white people, books like these must be dissected with young black people to point out the Racism and incorrectness of black people. After reading both I definitely see why white people loved them, whit people love are degradation.

        Right now I am reading the The Hate U Give and white people, holding true to my suspicions love this book, but I think it’s awful for a young adult but if viewed through a Counter Racist Lens, there is some lessons you can teach to young black people, but a young black person on their own reading this in high school, no way, the book is dangerous and I suspect that is why white people love it.

      2. The bluest eye is such a hyper-site for explication! I may have to check the hate you give now. I’d love to do more book reviews on the blog, starting with Wallace Thurman’s The blackest berry. Are you into August Wilson by any chance?

      3. Forgive my ignorance I have not heard of either Wallace Thurman The Blackest Berry or August Wilson, but I have now! 🙂 That’s why I am here to continue learning and growing. I will research both of these The Blackest Berry sounds intriguing and is going on my reading list. Please read The Hate U Give, it’s awful and enjoyable at the same time. I think all black people who are attempting to counter racism should read it because the White Supremacists have latched on to it and are even reading these in schools. With all the foul language and soft porn, the book makes black people seem retarded, referring to “Black Jesus” I never heard a black person refer to Black Jesus except on television where heavy social engineering and stereotyping is going on.

        I will have to hurry up and read The Blackest Berry, in preparation for your review!

  2. Love this post so much 💕💕💕 especially the 3rd lesson, “Self-Actualization is the kryptonite to a word trying to beat the black body into a pedestal on which their false superiority stands.” Living fully realized, joyous lives truly is one of the most radical things we can do, since we were never supposed to have lasted this long anyway. Thank you for sharing the queen’s words 🙏🏾

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