My Heart Belongs to Maya

"Miss Calypso" -- the great Maya Angelou as a dancer and singer

“Miss Calypso” — the great Maya Angelou as a dancer and singer

In celebration of Maya Angelou’s passing from her earthly form yesterday, I want to contribute to the countless voices and hearts who have been moved by Maya’s great works, and playings, too!

When I first read her book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” it struck me deep in my gut. Maya’s descriptions took my breath away, forcing me to read her words over and over, sometimes lingering on a phrase for too long, savoring her use of words and rhythm, only to find myself needing to go back over and read an entire passage again to make sense of what she’d just said. Her words were birds themselves, flitting here and there in my mind.

Her honesty in depicting what actually happened to her just took the roof of my brain right off its hinges! I’d never read anyone so honest, and so nonprejudicial. Even in the face of her childhood rape she just told it like it was. Harsh, raw, damaging. Crude and I’ll never forget the image of how she portrayed the offending weapon as a corn cob all covered with knobs and discolored bumps. She never spoke after that for seven years. For me, it was the beginning of me wanting to speak.

Maya’s rendition of her life gave me courage to speak out, to share, to make story out of what life had brought me. No longer did I feel I had to “make things up” in order to have something worthy for others to read, to know about. Like her, I started looking at my own life, simple as it was, and speak of it in honest words. Describing life as if it were a painting, filled with colors and energy even in one flash of a camera’s lightbulb.

Without Maya’s going before us, all of us who write about how our own lives have affected us, would now be struggling with “how much, how little?” instead of what she posed: “Truth doesn’t always need to contain all the facts.”

Thank you Maya for everything! For youir life, for your words, for your big and beautiful personality. For your dark dark skin and your frizzy fuzzy hair, for the sway of your hips and the brashness of your self reliance (taught to you by your grandma, thanks, granny of Maya). Thank you for your world-large smile and gleaming eyes that hugged everyone who came within your range. Thank you for standing up for Truth, and being brave enough to speak it even when you might have been shot or raped again or called insane at one time … but instead, you paved the way for the more timid of heart, like me, to follow in your stead.

Thank you for daring to cross lines. Thank you for being a whore (that one time!), a diplomat (in Africa), a linguist (gal, if you can do it so can we all!), a wordsmith supreme and a gorgeous woman who made inner beauty her entree instead of the standards set by a messed up culture she worked so hard to bust its stubborn gates down.

Thank you for being you, Maya.

I will always love you and hold you as my main mentor for life, for writing, for being brave and having fun at the same time!

RIP Maya Angelou

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