“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within,” Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
Maya Angelou was born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, but her time there was very short for at the age of three, her brother was four, their father sent them to live with his mother in Stamps, Arkansas. Two little children, alone on a train, some four-hundred and seventy-five miles, a trip by train that took almost ten hours non-stop, but I image in the early 1930s, there were stops along the way.
When Maya was eight, her father arrived at the home and whisked the children away to live with their mother again, now his ex-wife. Maya was raped soon after taking up residence; she told her brother who told everyone one. The offending man was her mother’s boyfriend who was arrested, spent one day in jail, released, and was murdered a few days later.
Maya, so traumatized by this life-altering experience, and feeling responsible for this man’s death, believed that her voice killed him. I killed that man because I told his name. She remained mute believing her voice could kill anyone, lasting five years.
Her silence developed her extraordinary memory, her love of words and her keen sense of “street smarts.” Not too long after this, the children were returned to their grandmother.
When she was fourteen, the children once again moved in with their mother, now living in Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco. Maya completed high school when she was seventeen and that summer, gave birth to her only child, a son, Guy Johnson; Johnson was Maya’s maiden name. Her life was full of twists and turns, some good, some bad, but she never gave up.
She wrote her first autobiography in 1969, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings which catapulted her to international acclaim. More memoirs followed (seven in all), books of poems, books for children, she sang and acted, she was a phenomenal storyteller, and she became a civil rights activist.
Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014 and is survived by her son, one grandson, and two great-grandchildren.
Her poem “Phenomenal Woman” from 1978, represents her strength and is one of my favorite poems. The last lines epitomize her and us, care partner or not, we are phenomenal in our special way: ‘Cause I’m a woman phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.’
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it,
possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women,” declared Maya Angelou.
Life lesson: find your strength – you have it! Find out what moves you, motivates you, and gives your life purpose. Hilary Hinton Ziglar said, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”