When I was in my first year at university, we had a course called Personal Management. In short, the course was designed to boost our confidence, help us grow, and polish our personal attributes by working on various in-class exercises. For our final, we had to perform an act by impersonating a famous celebrity. I wanted to skip the final, because speaking out in class was the last thing I wanted to do. I was really, really nervous. Back then I had sort of a phobia, I guess. I would always find a way to get out of speaking in presentations. I would always get stuck making the slides, or writing the report and my other teammates would speak.
However, this final was individual work. It was all down to me. A one-man show. And it made up 20% of my grade. I was truly in a dilemma. All the other people in the class were either performing songs, acting out scenes from popular movies or doing famous dance routines. I wanted to disappear. A friend, deciding to be helpful, told me to do something that I’d be comfortable with. And so, after racking my brain for hours and wallowing away in self-pity, something struck me. I could read out a poem. And so, I instantly chose And Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou because:
a. That poem is AMAZING. Like, oh my God. That poem is brilliantly written.
b. Because Maya. Need I say more?
My final went really nice. Reading out the poem didn’t make me feel nervous at all. And I put up my best Maya Angelou impression, although I can never amount to the brilliant, BRILLIANT writer that she was. Her death has truly shocked me, and is a huge loss for the literary world. She was a great contributor to literature. Her voice has fallen silent, but her poems shall live forever.
I’ll leave you with some of her words:
1. “The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.” -I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
2. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” -Letter to My Daughter.
3. “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built 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.” -Phenomenal Woman.
4. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
5. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
6. “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
7. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
8. “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.” -And Still I Rise.
RIP Maya. 1928-2014.
You were my inspiration. ❤