This Week’s Woman of the Week is:
Maya Angelo – April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014
Maya Angelo born Marguerite Annie Johnson was a Civil Rights Activists, Poet, Actress and Writer. She published several autobiographies, books of poetry, and three books of essays. She has been credited with a list of movies, plays and television shows spanning 50 years.
She is best known for her autobiographies and in particular, I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing, published in 1969 and tells of her life up to the age of seventeen. It brought her international recognition. In the book she tells how she was severely raped at the age of eight and her sense of responsibility when her rapist was found dead because she thought by calling his name she had caused his death. The traumatic event caused her to go mute for five years.
Maya was the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. She was participant in the civil rights movement working alongside the likes of Malcolm X and later Martin Luther King. Maya held many jobs during her lifetime including working as a dancer, calypso singer, fry cook, prostitute and as manager for lesbians, magazine editor, actress, and administrative assistant. Maya was the recipient of many awards.
Her poem ‘Still I Rise’ speaks to every woman who thinks she can’t rise above her situation.
Still I Rise
BY MAYA ANGELOU
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 backyard.
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.
Heartiest tribute to this woman whose words of wisdom lives on.