I read “Still I Rise” in elementary school. As you can see the importance of knowing who I am and my heritage was instilled in me early. That poem, stayed with me to this day. You taught me that no matter what, I can rise above it all, no matter the dirt, hate and evil that may come my way… Still I Rise. Although I didn’t get a chance to meet you, I have had the blessing of knowing those who did and in my own mind, it gave me an opportunity to know you through them. Their eyes light up when speaking of your name, your aura described as unexplainable yet powerful, peaceful yet the loudest in the room. The memory of you will stain my friends, you’re an unforgettable force of nature.
You were born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928 and your life was that of an envious one. I know some people would look to me and ask “How can you envy a person who grew up in Jim Crow South?” Well, in turn I ask, “How can you not envy a woman who saw the raw emotion of her people and the progress of a nation?” In your books, you recant your life to a mirrored perfection, you gave me an in depth look at what being a true Southern Black Girl was. Your voice was stopped because you found out the true meaning of words when you were young, I hate knowing that was because of a rape but I know during that time you realized how words can carry and your love of language began to grow. You danced. You sang. You wrote. People in different parts of the world got to see the amazement of you. You leave behind a son, he was blessed to have a woman of your stature as a mother. You worked tirelessly to make sure he was taken care of, taking odd jobs from street car conductor, cook, a mechanics shop and even went in the business of prostitution, all to make ends meet. I admire your ability as a mother to make sure he was taken care of, even if it meant doing things a woman can never imagine herself doing; its a shame traits like that are rarely seen in my generation.Your name is spoken amongst greats, Dr. King, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, the list can go on forever but I want people to see your legacy didn’t stop and end with books, you also had your hand in improving a nation. You spoke countless times on racism and sexism proving that a woman, a black woman, can accomplish anything in this world she set her mind to. You shed light on the mistreatment of blacks and even had a new civil rights movement group with Malcolm X before his untimely death.
Your later years where spent teaching at Wake Forest University, in North Carolina where you beacame a “teacher who writes”. Campaign trails where blazed with your words as you gained recognition from Former President Bill Clinton and President Barak Obama. You were crowned with medals of achievement and recognized as a living legacy.Your death came as a shock to us, not may knew of your illness. I awoke this morning with texts from friends telling me of the news. They all expressed condolences to me because they knew I would take the passing of a living legend hard. In actuality, its a time to celebrate your life, you left your name on the lips of the world. Your work will forever be read. Your life forever celebrated.
But before I leave I think I know why does the caged bird sings. Growing up, I always thought there was something so much more to this title than the poem it was given. When I think of that title, I think back to my ancestors, who even in shackles sung; even though they were caged, nothing stopped their song, their faith, their hope. Thats why the caged bird sings because no matter what people do to you, your voice can never be stopped, your song deserves to be heard. You showed me that no cage can hold you hostage, never sit on your dreams. Speak it and live it. You left a legacy of patience, love, admiration, and hope. I want you to know, a writer writes to make things live forever. Your writings are something that will forever be on this earth, your name is etched in history. You’re my forever,this blog to you, is something that can never be taken from me. I appreciate you as an idol, as an author, and a woman. It scares me when people call me a journalist or a writer when there are works like yours that I have to live up to but know I will strive everyday to make a Southern Black Girl proud. Thank you for leaving your legacy, thank you for inspiring mine.
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.