Maya Angelou has died. Her family shared her passing on Maya Angelou’s Facebook page earlier this morning. Whoever wrote it put the date as May 28th, but got the day wrong: Thursday. I remember when my mom died, when all the days blurred together, and seeing the day and date on Dr. Angelou’s page was heartbreaking. Those who loved her tried to give the news to her millions of readers and fans, and their own pain was so potent, Wednesday became Thursday. At some point, they will know what day it is, just not now. Today is simply a day of unimaginable loss.
My cousin Tory, a brave and wonderful woman, wrote this one, this “famous” death, is hard. Reading between the lines, as we can do with family, Tory was saying this one is harder. She’s absolutely right. Maya Angelou wrote many powerful things, all of which touched someone, somewhere. This is a quote I carry with me:
Surviving is important, thriving is elegant.
As a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence, I understand Maya Angelou’s words too well. I walked through hell, and I’m still here. So many of my friends, men and women, have staggered along the same horrible path, and are still here. I try to thrive. Sometimes, I fail, and sometimes, I succeed. I love, and am loved, I care for, and am cared for. My friends try to thrive, with various measures of success. But we never stop trying. Maya Angelou knew what it was to survive, and she thrived like a hothouse flower.
Her physical self is gone, yes. Maya Angelou’s spirit, her words, her passion, her strength, will live for all time. Tell her story, as she would want us to. She told stories; gorgeous, lyrical, wondrous stories, filled with pain and joy, hardship and triumph. Tell her story.
I will never be able to craft words the way that Maya Angelou did, so please allow me to share my favorite poem with you, “Still I Rise.” Thank you, Dr. Maya Angelou, for giving a voice to the invisible, and allowing all us to draw on your strength. We will never forget you.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread 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.