I was introduced to Maya Angelou when I was in middle school.  I don’t know if it was by my sister or a teacher.  I do remember that my sister loved Ms. Angelou, and my sister is the only person I’ve ever wanted to copy.  So, if she didn’t introduce me, I certainly latched on because my sister was the most fabulous person in my eyes.

Ms. Angelou’s poetry made me feel like my existence mattered–even at a time when I wasn’t completely aware of why knowing that was essential.

I loved the depth, the sass, the strength, and the power of her words.  I loved how each stanza was affirmation and propelled me forward.  Always forward.

I knew the words to Phenomenal Woman and remember reciting the poem for class.  Still I Rise was also one of my favorites.  I knew the words to it as well.

To survive the four years long hunger game that was high school, Ms. Angelou’s poems–specifically Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise–were a must.

I haven’t visited with either in a long time.  This is the first year that I’ve been super psyched about Black History month, and reflecting on its importance led me back to Ms. Angelou.  There is much more meaning and understanding now that I’m reading Still I Rise as a mature woman and mother.  Particularly during Black History Month.

I am so thankful for the teachers and my sister who brought these works into my life.  Representation matters.

Happy Black History Month!

This post is dedicated to the women who are walking, breathing personifications of Still I Rise.

 

Still I Rise

BY MAYA ANGELOU
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
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.
Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems.  Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.  

reallifechic.com black history month

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