My Relationship With Maya Angelou

What can we learn from Maya Angelou? Of course, every person has a particular answer for this question. The response I can give is based on my private life and on the context I have lived since the day of my birth. I believe that, as a person who has done so many different amazing things during her lifetime, she will achieve each one distinctly, and this is beautiful.

Maya was born in 1928, almost 60 years before I did, and was from the United States. Besides that, she was black in an extremely racist society: the south of the US in the first decades of the 20 century. On the years of her existence she did several things: from traveling through 22 European countries singing in an opera tour, to living in Cairo, where she occupied the post of editor in the Arab Observer journal.

I am only 22 right now and I am from Latin America. If compared to the reality most of other women in the continent I was born have, I can say that being privileged is a reality for me. Except for one fact: since I was 13, I realized my life would be full of struggle until the day I die, because this was the age when I figured out that I am a queer person.

I confess I haven’t heard of Maya Angelou until very recently, and that the first contact I had with her happened by reading the most famous poem she wrote: ‘’Still I Rise’’. However, in this brief history, I can say her words have touched me for real:

 ‘’ 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 rise’’

This was the reality of a person like her in the context she lived, and it’s also the reality of the context I current live. She had to face the reality of being a black woman in an explicit racist context, something that I will never know how it is like. However, being queer in this moralist Brazilian society I was born in, is also hard. People shoot you with their words, cut you with their eyes, and, many times, actually kill my equals with their hatefulness, which makes me feel constantly afraid.

Answering the question I proposed myself to answer in the beginning of this text: what can I learn from this woman ? Even tough her reality at first seems to be so far from the pains and difficulties of my life, I could learn a very precious teaching by reading her poem:

That (after all the things I've been facing), still, like air, I rise.

Thank you, Maya.