Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A tribute to Maya Angelou - The Phenomenal Woman

My morning was saddened by the news of Maya Angelou's demise. I have been an ardent fan of the lady since my early teenage years. I remember reading her autobiography - "I know why the caged bird sings" at an age where a lot of the things narrated in the book didn't make a lot of sense to me. But time after time, I kept going back to this back wondering how a woman can live to survive, smile and inspire despite of all that she has suffered and endured. As a reader of the book, it may take us few days or a week or a month to go through the pages, imagine the scenarios and estimate the book's overall impression in the end but with "I know why the caged bird sings", I remember returning to the cover of the book every few paragraphs to reaffirm to myself that this really is an autobiography of a real woman. Each time I finished reading this book, my mind raced to find one appropriate adjective that would justly define the level of respect I had in my heart for her.

Today I have found that word. It indeed is the word she used to define herself. The word with which the world and all it's great people are defining their impression of Maya Angelou. And the word is - "Phenomenal".

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

  Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women 

For all those times when I googled "quotes by Maya Angelou" in my life whenever I needed some guidance, advice or food for thought, for all the times when I would just smile and feel proud for  being a woman whenever she appeared on Oprah with all her poise, elegance and wisdom that she acquired in her journey through life, I want to do this humble little post as a tribute to Maya Angelou. Thank you for being such a great teacher!

 Dignity really means that I deserve the best treatment I can receive, that I have the responsibility to give the best treatment to others.

I had to trust life, since I was young enough to believe that life loved the person who dared to live it.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

I do not trust people who don't love themselves and yet tell me, 'I love you.' There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
When you know better you do better.

 Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.
Anything that works against you can also work for you once you understand the Principle of Reverse.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

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. 
I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.

I do not need to know all things. I remind myself that it is sufficient that I know what I know and know that without believing that I will always know what I know or that what I know will always be true.
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

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.