Maya Angelou, (I realize and recognize she is Dr. Maya Angelou but I grew up reading her as Maya Angelou) died yesterday and I am truly affected by her death. I read her in high school and I quickly became obsessed with her and read everything she had written. Former President Bill Clinton nominated her as our nation’s poet laureate, and she read a poem she wrote for his inauguration. Regardless of what he does, for the rest of his life, I will always respect and admire his decision to ask Angelou to write a poem for the United States. He acknowledged how important art, and specifically, Angelou is to our country.
Angelou’s early life was not easy; abused followed by violence on her abuser. If anyone had an excuse to give up and complain, it was her. She stopped talking for years. . . But one day, she began again and spoken word has never been the same. I hear her voice in my head. Her tone, her inflections, her words, her poetry.
She taught me how to be strong. She taught me how to be honest. She was the first feminist I encountered. She changed my life. She wrote of things I knew nothing about. Segregation, mute, teen pregnancy, exotic dancing. She taught me to respect people and never look down on them.
She made me realize I was not alone. That regardless of what happens in the past, you can survive it and move forward. Things that happen to you are not your fault. Victims of circumstance feel pain, of course, but they do not deserve it.
This post may be sporatic, I keep coming back to it. I cannot seem to focus. I keep trying to write about her writing, but I don’t remember too many specifics. What I remember is how her writing made me feel. She made me feel that social activism, education, and academics are important. I was an awkward shy goth kid but I felt a kinship with Angelou and her morals. (My other primary interests at the time were Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana.) She spoke to me in a way that not many writers have.
I think her death comes as a shock because I grew up reading her when she was older. She has always looked the same to me. I imagine her in the photos from the backs of her books. She was young then, yes, but she has always had salt and pepper hair, red lipstick, flowing black clothing, and a smile.
Forgive my self-reflections because I need to reread her works. It has been a goal of mine to begin rereading them this year. The fact that this artists’s death, a writer, has deeply affected so many is astounding. It gives me hope that so many people reflect and share their experiences with her writing and words.I cried this morning. Maya Angelou was my first foray into true literature. She taught me that real writing is honest and painful. My heart hurts. Dr. Maya Angelou, I’ve always loved you and you will forever be missed by a girl who never met you. Your voice and your words will live on in generations to come. You will forever continue to inspire people to move forward, believe in themselves, and become better.