Wednesday, May 28, 2014

and still I rise.


The first time I read Maya Angelou's "And Still I Rise," I cried. I was in junior high, and I didn't understand it, but I still couldn't help it.

The second time I read it, in an English class in high school, I understood the context more, and I cried for the pain buried in the words.
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 saw this video on YouTube, and then read the words again in a college Humanities course, and even now as I understand more and more of what her words are really saying, I still cry out of fear that we are a society that still forgets the "huts of history's shame," and we forget that empowerment is not about the suppression of others' voices and stories, but about the lifting of the oppressed so that we can one day reach a land of equality for all.

We cannot ignore the weight of Angelou's words in this world that so desperately needs more voices like hers. What a giant, what a loss.

I had a dream last year, the night I watched her speak with Rev. Al Sharpton, that we were drinking tea on a rooftop, and I was telling her about not feeling quite good enough. And she said, before I woke up, "But my dear, don't you know? Don't you know you've been paid for?"--echoing the words she had just said during her interview.

Months later: "You've been paid for by people who never even saw your face," Angelou said in an interview last year with Oprah. "Your mother's mother, your father's father. And so it behooves you to prepare yourself so you can pay for someone else yet to come. Whose name you'll never know. You just keep the good thing going."

I'll carry that with me for the rest of my life, in everything I do. 

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