Thursday, September 07, 2006

still she rises

Would you call Dr. Maya Angelou "dog faced" and ugly in a room full of black people? L did.

Remember L? She's our resident carnival-barker at work and she's certainly entitled to her opinion, but just as my conversation with Muddy about Steve Irwin proves, perspective makes major difference in how things are viewed.

I found L's comments, especially numerous cracks she made about Ms. Angelou's poems being 'horrible,' highly inappropriate, but I was only half as offended as my other co-worker, V, who is a massive poetry and spoken word fan.

I felt it was appropriate to post a picture of Ms. Angelou and one of her best known poems as proof that she's no hack, nor is she a hag.

Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou

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.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

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 tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
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.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


  1. I submit through tears: pure fucking genius.

    i hate to further that there is endless evidence that life's labors are not measured through a camera-phone.

    maya angelou once told my mother, reciprocating praise she had rendered after a reading at a bookstore: 'you are a beautiful person.'

    'me??' my mother thought, reflecting the bigoted disinterest that she had displayed when i described ms. angelou's tragic upbringing.....

    perhaps it is the poetry by which we access the unthinkable. do those whose lives are tragic and unpresentable need to be poets to be heard?

  2. People who've had realitvely drama-free lives are usually not that expressive, or either refain from expression. Often times, when life is harder, people need that release, and through expression fueled by their their struggles, talented people like Ms. Angelou help us find our own inner strength.

    Beauty of the spirit never fades if one is true to one's self. I'll take that over clichéd physical beauty any day.

  3. "L" must be a little loony, or at least misinformed.

    Thats a great poem! I wish I could write poetry or song lyrics of that caliber!

    Ms. Angelou is not ugly, she's had to live in the real world and thus has a little wear on her. I hope I look as good as she does when/if I reach her age.


  4. L is part of what I feel is an increasingly desensitized culture in regards to her comments about Maya Angelou.

    The way most people talk these days is with sarcasm and backhanded compliments, but this is also joined with a certain amount of 'me-too' victimism. Basically, most people resposnd to situations in a jerky way that could be construed as offensive, then try to seek protected status after someone calls them on it. Which is exactly what L did.

    I'd like to think L said what she did for the shock value because I don't feel like anyone who looked at Ms. Angelou's work and image with an objective eye could completely write her off like that.

    Then again, she could have been totally serious, which sickens me more...

  5. wow. that second paragraph is good. it really does describe how people perceive those whom they don't know. is it me, or are people becoming more and more looks-conscious? it's as if by embracing the right to entry into the locker room of the boys' club, we feel the need make the most lurid, shallow observations to prove ourselves worthy of this station.

    i used to think of 'me too' victimism as kind of a neanderthal guy thing: competitive, purposefully incompassionate, self-serving. but as you point out, it has become a more pervasive posture universally. ironically, it seems most prevalent among those who know little or nothing about suffering....

  6. One of the glossy celebrity mags (Us Weekly maybe?) does this photo section called “Celebrities: They’re Just Like Us,” where they show all our favorite famous people going to Starbucks, walking the dog, and stuff like that looking disheveled and acting rude like most of us do when we do those things, only richer and in New York or L.A.. You never used to see stuff like that.

    Combine that (thanks ET!) with the general consensus that the well-dressed, well-meaning and well-mannered are uncool, disingenuous and somehow sinister, and you see sloppy, rude people who are “just trying to keep it real like Brittney” or K-Fed or Brangelina or Jay-Z.

    We don’t have royalty in this country. Sadly, we have Diddy. And we want to be just like him.

    Worse still is all this “I’m a victim” crap. There are people truly in pain and in need in this world, and very few of them are living in relative wealth in middle-class suburbs. I can feel bad about things that happen in my life, but I’ve never known what it feels like to be truly hungry, or destitute, or abused. The majority of us haven’t.

    Most of us need to take a more objective view of our lives and see that we’re not that bad off overall. So many things could be better, but so much already is and we take it for granted because it’s always been that way. We think it’s a right, when it’s really a privilege.