June 27, 2014 Pamela Hale Trachta

May You Rise

As I write this, my heroine, Maya Angelou, has left us. By the time you read this, you will have heard many reminders about her talents, her achievements and the way she rose out of a dark beginning to represent women, blacks, and others who feel marginalized in any way.

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" began her series of memoirs, recounting a life that made it possible for her to speak with conviction when she recited her well-known poem, "Still I Rise." (Watch it here.)

"Does my sassiness upset you?" she asks through the poem."'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells pumping in my living room."

This, said by a woman who was raped at 7 by her mother's boyfriend. She only told her brother, but when her rapist turned up dead, she felt she had killed him with her voice. So she refused to speak for 5½ years.

"I can get down inside me where a poem may live," she said. I'd say, that's called finding your voice. In the poem "On the Pulse of the Morning," which she composed and read for Clinton's inauguration, she challenged us all through the voices of the rock, the tree and the river, to honor nature and our country by not reliving history.

She didn't; she reinvented history. She never had a college education, yet she ended up being awarded thirty honorary degrees.

"Just like hopes springing high

Still I'll rise."

She rose in whatever way the occasion required. Pregnant as a teenager, she raised her son by working as a waitress. She used her formerly mute voice to become a successful singer. Also a dancer, director and actor, she appeared in the film "Roots," was nominated for a Tony and won three Grammys.

"Out of the huts of history's shame

I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain

I rise."

She was a whole woman: sexy, humorous, proud...

"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?"

What would it take for you to rise? I think all you need is the feeling that you carry real life within you.

"just like life, I rise...

I rise

I rise."

May it be so.