The Influence of Maya Angelou

February is always a busy time. It’s short and I always feel like stuff is crammed into the mere 28 days that make up the month. SCAD kids are worrying about midterms and are rushing to finish up projects, papers and 3D Design sculptures. People in general are also rushing to figure out what to get their sweetheart for Valentine’s Day. I sometimes feel like Black History Month -that also takes place in February- is overlooked. So I wanted to pause this whirlwind month for just a minute, and celebrate someone who has had an influential force on me as well as many others: Maya Angelou.


Maya Angelou was many things. She was most known for being a writer, with numerous poetry books and six memoirs, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her works have earned her more than 30 honorary degrees, all of which are incredibly well deserved. Besides writing poetry and memoirs, Angelou also wrote for television and Hollywood, and was a journalist in Egypt and Ghana. Sge is also known for being a singer, a dancer in Porgy and Bess, a director of the 1998 film Down in the Delta, and a civil rights activist who worked alongside Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. 



As a writer, her strong voice is something that is I greatly admire; she never hesitated to speak her mind, both in her writing and in person. Angelou passionately defended the rights of women, young people, and those who were ignored. She never shied away from talking about the burdens of discrimination or the evils of sexism. She didn’t falter when she wrote about the realities of being poor and black, being a childhood victim of rape, and being a young single mother who had to work at a strip club for a living. She took her pain and wrote, creating her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and becoming a voice for black women to speak up about what they have gone through as well. She wasn’t afraid explore her own identity, fiercely diving into her troubled past. She exemplifies what it means to be truly fearless, and as Oprah Winfery put it: “She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence, and a fierce grace".


Angelou’s profound yet simple observations about the human condition always found their way into her work, her speeches, and her conversations. She often declared, “I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition.” Angelou was a trailblazer for black women, and an inspiration for everyone. In a time when black women’s stories were ignored, Angelou dared to presume that her personal story mattered. She fought for what she believed in and fought for others to find the courage to share their stories as well.  


Maya Angelou was and still is an inspiration to me for many reasons. Her writing is unapologetic and smart, her voice never faltering in what she wanted to say. She stood up for what she believed in and fought for the rights of many. She shaped history and paved a way for black women to find their own voices and announce their stories. She was one of the most influential voices of our time, and I’m glad to celebrate this woman writer for Black History month.