Updated: Mar 6
‘A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; A wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.”
There is so much to be said about Maya Angelou. A poet, a memoirist, and a civil rights activist. But she is nobody’s victim.
This woman knew what was good for her soul and nurtured it. She wrote such beautiful pieces, my favourite being Phenomenal Woman.
A simple but powerful poem saying I am who I am, and I am amazing.
Maya’s early years were spent in a home where her parents couldn’t get along. She was sent to leave with her grandmother. But Maya didn’t have a fairy tale upbringing filled with flowers, butterflies, and princess dreams.
After a few years, Maya and her brother moved back to St Louis to live with their mother. And it was at this time that her mother’s boyfriend sexually abused Maya. She was only 8 years old. Having to deal with being hurt and abused by someone who is supposed to care for you at such a young age could change your worldview.
Yet, instead of being bitter and angry, Maya didn’t feel like that. She knew it was wrong and told her family what had happened. The person who abused her was later found killed, and instead of relief, she felt guilt. She stopped talking and became mute for almost 5 years as she felt like her voice had killed a man. He may have hurt her, but she couldn’t help but feel responsible for his death.
During this period of silence, Maya found a love for literature. Maybe her way of healing. She listened to everything so intently and found a whole new way of observing the world. Her new world.
Maya worked odd jobs as she grew older, but her love for poetry drove her. It fuelled her heart.
She went on to use her passion to teach others the wonders of literature and what it does to feed the soul. The imagination it requires and the peace it leaves you with.
If you look at her childhood, you may think she was destined to be another statistic, another failure. Damaged beyond repair. But the key is that she never saw herself that way, so she sure as hell wouldn’t let anyone else’s views get in her way.
She was a strong woman. A determined woman with a beautiful heart and mind that she shared through her words. She gave us poems such as Still I Rise, full of sass and stubbornness. To not live the way people expect “victims” to live. But to say I’m no one’s victim, and I will not be told I cannot enjoy my life.
And it doesn’t stop there. Maya became one of the most influential women of the ’70s and ’80s. She produced screenplays, wrote film soundtracks, and worked on songs for artists like Roberta Flack.
She holds over 30 honorary degrees from colleges and universities worldwide for her works with literature. She has read her works at 2 presidential inaugurations, which allowed her to use that stage to raise awareness of racial, economic, and educational boundaries. She fought tirelessly to have everyone grow up “beyond the idiocies of racism and sexism.”
A strong woman.
She had her beliefs and stood by them every step of the way. She didn’t let her past taunt her image of how the world should be. She didn’t let herself become a victim. She chose strong. She chose powerful. She chose educational, beautiful, loving, and forgiving. All the time knowing that this was what was best for her soul.
Maya once said:
“I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, “I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? – never I. I have no skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet”. They lie like that, and then young people find themselves in situations and they think “Damn, I must be a pretty bad guy. My mom and dad never did anything wrong”. They can’t forgive themselves and go on with their lives.”
We are all the same. We all make mistakes. And the world has a way of biting you in the ass.
So I say –
Let’s all be a little more Maya. Someone may take your voice, but it isn’t forever, It’s a period of time to reflect and heal. And grow into a new you. To re-find your voice and remember who you are. And no one will ever be able to take that from you.
And never be afraid to reach out. We’re here for you.
Stay PHENOMENAL and unapologetically you!
By: Lisa Winters