Today is a sad day for American culture as we lost one of our gemstones - Dr. Maya Angelou. A poet, a writer, activist, mother and speaker of our stories Dr. Angelou was a constant force within our ever changing cultural landscape. She was my first introduction into poetry as my mother gave "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" when I was in my early teens. My grandmother was also quite fond of her work and alternated between quoting her and the Bible. Both were to be taken equally seriously.
She was a mentor of sorts for a burgeoning writer like myself and spoke to my soul in a way I never thought possible. She taught me that imperfection is beauty and that although people may doubt me and my journey , I could still rise above it. To a young woman who struggled with her self-esteem that was everything.
I read everything I could by her and was moved to begin my own foray into the world of poetry and prose. Between her, Zora Neale Hurston , Nikki Giovanni and Dorothy West I was armed with the words of strong black woman that had come before me and understood my artist's heart. I always felt she was family, though we'd never met and her voice soothed me in the way my grandmother's hands did whenever I was upset and her words inspired me to push harder and go further. My mission is similar to hers in that I only want to encourage, inspire, live with passion and make people laugh, she taught me that it's okay to want that and not just chase the almighty dollar.
That she was well into her eighties and sending profound tweets is not surprising. At 86 she is gone too soon but her words live on not only in her published work but her often quoted words will be turned into images to inspire for years to come.
I love that I can share her wisdom with my own daughter the way my mother did with me and I only hope that we can continue in her footsteps. Perhaps we will now focus on having our girls aspire to be like her rather than what they see on ratchet TV. Wouldn't that be amazing? A new generation of young women so inspired to live with character, dignity and grace that they would value themselves as something beyond the baby mama or reality TV star. A generation who stood up for their beliefs and took to heart what those that came before them went through, all so they could follow their own dreams. Wouldn't that be special?
She was truly a national treasure and her voice will be greatly missed.
Do you have a favorite Maya Angelou quote or book? Share it with me!