In her lifetime, Maya Angelou formed a dance troupe with Alvin Ailey, was San Francisco's first Black street conductor and became one of the most important writers the world had ever seen. Angelou's work spoke to the beauty and resilience of being a Black woman. Naturally, her work and interviews are littered with priceless gems: here are seven of them.
1. "You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I'll rise." "Still I Rise," 1978
A poem recited by schoolchildren everywhere, "Still I Rise" encapsulates the very best of the human spirit — the refusal to be defeated. Angelou's message is exceptionally powerful when considering the work was meant to uplift Black women. This poem, in its entirety, should be read whenever you're feeling down.
2. "I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me 'I love you.'" - The Distinguished Annie Clark Tanner Lecture, 1997
How can someone who doesn't love themselves love you? I don't have the answers but, of course, Ms. Angelou does. Her words on relationships and intimacy should always be considered before engaging in a possible relationship.
3. “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a b***h. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” Girl About Town, 1986
Ms. Angelou was born in 1928, a time entrenched in Jim Crow laws, segregation and the Great Depression. In her life, she was everything from a sex worker to a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient with a prolific career in between. A shining example of what it looks like to kick life's a*s and take its name.
4.“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”— Letter to My Daughter, 2009
Having a bad day at the office? Came into some financial trouble? President has been impeached and refuses to leave your country alone? Angelou's unshakable confidence, which shines through in this quote, encourages us all not to be defined by our circumstances.
5. “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”—The New York Times, 2007
Ironically, in modern times women seeming "pro-woman" in the Black community brings up the controversial word of "feminism," and allegiances to blackness. But the reality is, Black women have been pro-women and pro-Black since our inception, and many Black female creatives and intellectuals weren't afraid to say so. Angelou's writings and her interviews encourage women to stand up for themselves and each other.
6. "Be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud." OWN, 2011
In the end, all we have is ourselves and each other. If you can bring some joy to someone else's life, why not?
7. "We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated." Psychology Today, 2009
The perseverance of the human spirit can never completely be articulated, but Angelou's work did a damn good job. Always forward, never back. We are never defeated.