The world has lost yet another one of its greatest examples of humanity, but fortunately, the work of Maya Angelou will carry on long after she presumably shimmies in to heaven to join the rest of Black brilliance now maintaining occupancy.
RELATED: BREAKING: Maya Angelou Dead At 86
For most of us, we will forever be inspired by her ability to rise from poverty and segregation and violence and go on to become a success on stage, screen, and in publishing. For Black women, in particular, Maya will be cherished for making Black women a central theme in her work — in nuanced, thoughtful ways much of the rest of the world still has yet to accomplish.
Ms. Angelou stood in Black women’s beauty, and in some cases, owned their suffering and conquered it.
As Angelou once said, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a b*tch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”
As a writer, I personally cling to the quote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
At a time when a lack of diversity in publishing remains a fight for all minority writers, Maya Angelou’s work and legacy remind us all that there is value in stories from outside the sphere of White men and women. She reminds us that our stories are just as worthy and valuable a contribution as theirs.
And when it comes to telling our stories, Maya’s poetry as well as her fiction and nonfiction work illustrate the importance of real reflection and standing in our emotional truths.
Maya believed we all had this capability if we pushed ourselves enough.
This is exhibited in her most-famous book, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” which bluntly discussed child rape and racism.
When asked if anyone can write a poem during a 2011 interview with O magazine, Maya explained:
Yes, I think so. I don’t know if anyone will write a poem. You have to want to. You have to have sharp ears. And you have to not be afraid of being human.
She shared similar advice on public speaking that same year with The Daily Beast:
It’s the same thing that makes for a good singer. The speaker must have a good ear and a love for the language. Love and respect. And must be convinced that what she has to say is important. And don’t stay on the stage too long.
I’ve only known of Maya Angelou’s passing for a mere hour, so it’s somewhat difficult to truly get out how important someone like her means to a creative like me. What I can say, though, is that I appreciate that Maya Angelou lived during her 86 years on Earth: from musician and songwriter to dancer and pimp, she understood the importance of being a light in someone else’s life as echoed by the sentiment, “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
Most of all, she made it better for so many by just being herself.
I am grateful for that more than anything else. I imagine so many others feel the same about her. And we’re all so thankful.
Michael Arceneaux blogs at thecynicalones.com, tweets at @youngsinick, and praises Beyoncé’s name everywhere he goes.
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