Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fearless Woman #2 - Maya Angelou

Dear Claire,

To me the definition of a "fearless woman" is not a woman without fear.  In fact, she is a woman with many fears, but she is strong enough and brave enough to conquer them.

One fearless woman that all people (man or woman) should aspire to more like, is Maya Angelou.  Her list of accomplishments is too long for this blog but include publishing six autobiographies, five books of essays, numerous books of poetry, and is also credited with a long list of plays, movies, and television shows.  What a talent!

Being a female writer alone does not make one fearless.  What makes Maya so special is that she writes about her own life, and nothing is harder to write about, than one's own experiences.  She is willing to share her humiliations, her faults, her failures, her poor choices, and all that she learned from them.  As if that is not enough - she's African American!  An African-American Woman, willing to write her truth during a time of deep and unforgiving racism; now that is fearlessness.  

Many women, especially those who are "proud" and "strong", would never be willing to share their stories.  Never admit their wrongs or the wrongs committed against them for fear that others would judge them.  Maya shows that this type of opening-up is what makes a writer, and a woman, proud and strong. 

Did mommy mention that she writes some of my favourite poems?    Here are some for you to enjoy:

Phenomenal Woman

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.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Still I Rise

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 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
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.
Maya Angelou

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