Ms. Angelou

She had a voice that penetrated my consciousness. The wisdom was heard in each intonation. And her candor was delicious. She was a truth teller in every sense.

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

I remember reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in my 10th grade English class.  I was so intimidated by this book. It was the first time I really began to learn how to dig into an author’s meaning of not just words but their grouping of words. The way she strung them together was not only powerful; it was deep and provocative. I am so grateful her book along with a few others (Kaffir Boy, Native Son) were selected by Mrs. Jones.  It was in many ways my entry into learning how it felt, rather than how it was reported, to live as a young black person during those gruesome times of inequality.

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

I have to admit, I didn’t really know how full of a life Dr. Angelou lived. I understood she sang and did some film and theater, and was even engaged with the Civil Rights Movement.  I knew her as a literary change agent and a one of a kind, and compelling female role model.  I didn’t know she was raped as a young girl and after the perpetrator was murdered she didn’t speak for several years blaming her voice after having testified against him. I didn’t know Martin Luther King, Jr. her friend and colleague, was assassinated on her birthday and that she then didn’t celebrate her birthday for years following.  I didn’t know that she joined with Malcolm X prior to that to support his efforts only for that to be shortened by his assassination.  And that she lived in Cairo and Ghana and spoke more than 5 languages all while raising a son that she delivered at 16.

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.”

Her life story, what she experienced, and then what she did with her life is beyond inspirational.  I am not sure we celebrate the courage of the human spirit enough. Her resiliency was unwavering and it’s evident she didn’t know any other way.   Ms. Angelou‘s life is an example of what is possible for any of us. Her exampleship and memory will serve us for generations to come, and I hold that if nothing else, her choices give us, most especially women, permission to live our lives fully. To not hold back. To not waste time. To not miss opportunities to shine because we don’t want to upset or ruffle feathers. To stop telling ourselves bullshit stories about what we can’t do or what isn’t possible.

She drove impossible out of the game, completely.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you cannot practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically but nothing consistently without courage.”

Thank you, Ms. Angelou. You will be the rainbow in the clouds for many.

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