The free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream
Till the current ends and dips his wings in the orange sun rays
And dares to claim the sky.
The aforementioned stanza from Maya Angelou’s acclaimed poem, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, came to mind when I heard about her passing this morning. As the news of her death echoed around the world, I imagined her spirit taking flight and soaring through the sky, daring to claim it as her own. A gifted author and poet, she was a national treasure, an icon, and an inspiration to countless people around the world.
The first time I heard her speak, I was mesmerized by her melodious voice laced in wisdom and experience. I immediately sensed she was someone I not only wanted to listen to— but someone I needed to listen to. Her legendary poems still resonate with me today. As I grow older, I often reflect on her poem Phenomenal Woman. She reminds me in that poem that my beauty is not what I wear on my head or the makeup I paint on my face or the clothes I wear.
It’s in the reach of my arms, The span of my hips,
The stride of my step, The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman, That’s me.
I’ve been on my literary journey for fifteen years now, and I have faced myriad rejection. There have been times when I wanted to give up. I remember a day when I had faced some brutal rejection. I was on the phone with my cousin, telling her what had happened. With tears streaming down my face, screaming to the top of my lungs, I was determined that I was done trying to become a published author. But then a small voice spoke to my soul. It was Maya.
Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the ride.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
As the words seeped into my heart, I dried my eyes and held my head up high. I told myself, this too shall pass, and that I must fight on and never give up on my dreams. I owe it to myself and my ancestors. Not too long after that episode, I landed an agent and a four-book deal for my Cass and Nick series. The first book, “Married in the Nick of Nine,” debuts July 2, 2014. If it hadn’t been for Maya, I may have walked away, given up. She is my Angel.
My prayers go out to her loved ones. She will be missed. We are so fortunate to have been left with her body of work that I’m sure will inspire countless generations to come.