Maya Angelou grew up as a girl who decided to stop talking after being raped. A small bird caged in her own silence. But, one day, the bird began to sing and spread its wings and, from that moment on, nothing could stop it.
We wanted to pay a small tribute to this great writer and person whose childhood was not exactly a bed of roses. Maya Angelou managed to transform deep traumas and old pain into beautiful words and reflections . Her impact as a poet and, above all, as a social activist has left a deep mark on us.
Forced sexually while still a child, she spent the next few years of her childhood in absolute and voluntary silence ; she just stopped talking.
Some of her biographers affirm that the six years that Maya Angelou did not utter a single word were the alchemical cauldron where, slowly and over time, the wonderful voice that she would later unfold in her poems was conceived.
We don’t know what really took place in Angelou’s life between the age of seven, when she was raped, and when she was 14, that is, when she started talking again. What we do know is that everything she did after her has touched millions of people around the world.
His memoir, I Know Why Caged Birds Sing , was an international literary success, as were his collections of poetry and essays.
his early years
Marguerite Annie Johnson was born on April 4, 1928, in Saint Louis, Missouri. She grew up in Arkansas, alongside her paternal grandmother after her parents separated. Her grandmother was a very influential figure in Angelou’s life. She had a small store that had managed to lift the family out of misery and live much better than many families in the area.
In one of the visits that Maya and her brothers made to their mother, the tragedy occurred. Maya’s mother’s boyfriend sexually abused her . The little girl told one of her brothers and there was a trial in which the girl had to testify. The rapist managed to evade jail, but shortly after, he was murdered by a relative of Maya.
That was the moment the girl stopped talking. Later, she would confess that she thought she had killed that man with his voice, because she had betrayed him . During the stage in which Maya kept her silence, she developed a deep love for poetry and books.
This silence was maintained until, one day, her grandmother told her that she would never fully enjoy poetry until she heard it recited by her own voice . Therefore, the girl began to speak again after six years of silence.
At the age of 16, he had his first love encounter, which never turned into a serious relationship. Maya became pregnant and had her child at the age of 17. At that time, she held many unskilled and poorly paid jobs with which she managed to get her son ahead of her.
Maya Angelou: adult life
In 1951, Maya married a musician of Greek origin, Tosh Angelos. Maya personalized her married name to Maya Angelou. The marriage lasted a few years, and after parting, Maya Angelou worked as a dancer and singer. She toured half of Europe with an opera production.
In 1959, she considers getting into writing and, a year later, she would listen for the first time to Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech that made a deep impression on her . As a result, she organized a fundraiser for the cause of the African-American leader whom she got to know personally soon after.
A year later, he comes into contact with a South African activist with whom he had a romantic relationship. The couple moved to Cairo, where she Angelou began working for a major English-language newspaper as an editor.
However, some time later, their sentimental relationship breaks up and she moves with her son to Accra, where she continued to work as an editor in a newspaper , but also worked as an actress and radio host. She remained in Ghana until 1965, the year in which Maya Angelou decides to return to the United States to help her friend Malcolm X.
The inexhaustible Maya Angelou
A short time later, Martin Luther King Jr. would be assassinated. In fact, he was murdered on the very day of Angelou’s birthday, which she would not celebrate again for the next forty years. The same year as King’s murder, Maya Angelou wrote her first biography of her I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing , a work that opened an important niche for her in the literary world and launched her to stardom.
Since then, and for the rest of her life, Maya Angelou has been involved in numerous professional activities. She was linked to television, to the cinema, she continued writing and remarried . She died on May 28, 2014, still active and writing a new book.
All his literary work speaks of the strength to overcome and the importance of moving forward despite the obstacles that life presents us. Maya Angelou was an example of resilience and love for life .
The significance and depth of his poems has been widely studied. She had everything against her, but her fight against discrimination for being a woman and, furthermore, black, is an example where many other people were reflected.
Maya dedicated her whole life to this struggle, to overcoming, to overcoming obstacles and she recovered her voice at an absolutely necessary moment. She never forgot her past, nor her origin, but she decided to face a world that didn’t want to listen to her to give us some immortal verses.
-Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.
-I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
-I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.
-You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.
-You can’t get too high for somebody to bring you down.
The Heart of a Woman
-A leader sees greatness in other people. He nor she can be much of a leader if all she sees is herself.
-Human beings are more alike than unalike. Whether in Paris, Texas, or Paris, France, we all want to have good jobs where we are needed and respected and paid just a little more than we deserve. We want healthy children, safe streets, to be loved and have the unmitigated gall to accept love.
-Suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.
-The only way you can be a mark is if you want something for nothing. If you’re greedy, you’re set up.
-You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
-I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
-A mother’s love liberates.
-Success is loving life and daring to live it.
-Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.
-Don’t let the man bring you down.
The Heart of a Woman
-I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.
-When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.
-My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
-Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.
-Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
-You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
-We need much less than we think we need.
-To those who have given up on love: I say, ‘Trust life a little bit.’
-If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.
-A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.
Letter to My Daughter
-Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.
-The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.
-When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.
-When we find someone who is brave, fun, intelligent, and loving, we have to thank the universe.
-When was the last time anyone told you how important you are?
-If a person – any human being – is told often enough, ‘You are nothing. You are nothing. You account for nothing. You count for nothing. You are less than a human being. I have no visibility of you,’ the person finally begins to believe it.
-We are here to love each other. That is why you are alive. That is what life is for.
-I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.
-Home is a refuge not only from the world, but a refuge from my worries, my troubles, my concerns.
-You listen with interest. That gives some sense of confidence to the speaker.
-It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
-If I have a monument in this world, it is my son.
-First best is falling in love. Second best is being in love. Least best is falling out of love. But any of it is better than never having been in love.
-I was told many years ago by my grandmother who raised me: If somebody puts you on a road and you don’t feel comfortable on it and you look ahead and you don’t like the destination and you look behind and you don’t want to return to that place, step off the road.
-When you know you are of worth — not asking it but knowing it — you walk into a room with a particular power.
-I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me.
-Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.
-This is what I am learning, at 82 years old: the main thing is to be in love with the search for truth.
-The children to whom we read simple stories may or may not show gratitude, but each boon we give strengthens the pillars of the world.
-History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.
-My work is to be honest. My work is to try to think clearly, then have the courage to make sure that what I say is the truth.
-To those who are given much, much is expected.
-Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.
-When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness… all the good things.
-Each of us, famous or infamous, is a role model for somebody, and if we aren’t, we should behave as though we are — cheerful, kind, loving, courteous. Because you can be sure someone is watching and taking deliberate and diligent notes.
-Live as though life was created for you.
-We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.
-There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.
-One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential.
-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.
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
-Strong women- precious jewels all- their humanness is evident in their accessibility. We are able to enter into the spirit of these women and rejoice in their warmth and courage.
-We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.
-I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.
-You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.
-Ain’t nothin’ to it, but to do it.
-The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
-Women should be tough, tender, laugh as much as possible, and live long lives.
-Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.
-Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.
-I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
-I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
-When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.
-Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.
-My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
-Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
-If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?
-Life is going to give you just what you put in it. Put your whole heart in everything you do, and pray, then you can wait.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
-The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.
-What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.
-There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.
-The problem I have with haters is that they see my glory, but they don’t know my story.
-Some people cannot see a good thing when it is right here, right now. Others can sense a good thing coming when it is days, months, or miles away.
-If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.
-I believe that the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.
-In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.
-We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate – thereby, making the present comfortable and the future promising.
-Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer
-A woman who is convinced that she deserves to accept only the best challenges herself to give the best. Then she is living phenomenally.
-I want to thank you, Lord, for life and all that’s in it. Thank you for the day and for the hour, and the minute.
-There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
-Living well is an art that can be developed: a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings and assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift.
-Anything that works against you can also work for you once you understand the Principle of Reverse.
-You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.
-No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
-Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.
-I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.
-I want you to learn that you cannot have anything without working for it.
Mom & Me & Mom
-I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.
-Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
-Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
-Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
-The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.
-I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
-We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
-We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.
-Whining is not only graceless, but can be dangerous. It can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.
-When you know you are of worth, you don’t have to raise your voice, you don’t have to become rude, you don’t have to become vulgar; you just are. And you are like the sky is, as the air is, the same way water is wet. It doesn’t have to protest.
-I not only have the right to stand up for myself, but I have the responsibility. I can’t ask somebody else to stand up for me if I won’t stand up for myself. And once you stand up for yourself, you’d be surprised that people say, ‘Can I be of help?’
-I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
-The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes
-When I forgive other people, I let them go, I free them from my ignorance. And as soon as I do, I feel lighter, brighter and better.
-I’m really saddened by the attempts to separate and polarize. This is a time when we have hungry people, people out of work, and people out of spirit. This is a time where we need to uplift, not to separate.
-I never have written every day. When I’m writing a book, I write Monday through Friday. I always try to take Saturday and pretend to have some sanity.
-My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.
-While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.
-I try to see every day as a celebration.
-Those who have something to say accept the fact that that’s lonely. One already knows that there will be adversaries.
-If I’m going to a new country, I try to learn something about the language and the culture, so I don’t just go bumbling over things.
-God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us – in the dreariest and most dreaded moments – can see a possibility of hope.
-Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can stand, so you can compose your life.
-Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.
-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.
-The sisters and brothers that you meet give you the materials which your character uses to build itself. It is said that some people are born great, others achieve it, some have it thrust upon them. In truth, the ways in which your character is built have to do with all three of those. Those around you, those you choose, and those who choose you.
-You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
-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!
-Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
-Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.
-I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
-Grace is like a lake of drinkable water right outside your door. But you stay inside and die of thirst.
-We are only as blind as we want to be.
-This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.