I rise, I am the dream and the hope of the slave – Maya Angelou

Published: May 30, 2014
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Through her poetical works, Angelou expressed her profound feelings, intelligence, humour, audacity and elegance. PHOTO: REUTERS

Through her poetical works, Angelou expressed her profound feelings, intelligence, humour, audacity and elegance. PHOTO: REUTERS Through her poetical works, Angelou expressed her profound feelings, intelligence, humour, audacity and elegance. PHOTO: REUTERS Through her poetical works, Angelou expressed her profound feelings, intelligence, humour, audacity and elegance. PHOTO: REUTERS

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

A great soul has left us. Everyone is saddened by the passing of one of the most celebrated poet, writer, teacher, artist, dancer, director and civil rights activist, Dr Maya Angelou, who died on May 28, 2014, at the age of 86. People will never forget how Angelou made them feel.

Poet, critic and scholar Joanne M Braxton remembers her as “America’s most visible black female auto biographer”. To me, when I think of Angelou I think of Nelson Mandela’s famous saying,

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Born as Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St Louis, Missouri, Angelou had an extensive career spanning over 50 years. From writing movie screenplays and television scripts to performing as a singer, dancer and actor, she did it all. In fact, Angelou received more than 50 esteemed awards for her works, which include more than 30 honorary degrees, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony, an Emmy and three Grammys.

She gained historical recognition as the first best-seller African-American woman for her most outstanding and revolutionary memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), the first part of her seven autobiographies. Angelou attains more or less a rare, one of its kind, hue in the Caged Bird that brings together casualness, companionship and severance – a touch, undeniably of certain calmness, that surpasses the terrified degradation and fury that Angelou endured as a young girl.

“The free bird thinks of another breeze

And the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

And he names the sky his own.

 

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

His wings are clipped and his feet are tied

So he opens his throat to sing

 

The caged bird sings

With a fearful trill

Of things unknown

But longed for still

And his tune is heard

On the distant hill

For the caged bird

Sings of freedom.”

(Stanzas from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing)

Through her work, Angelou expressed profound feelings, intelligence, humour, audacity and elegance. In 1971, Angelou got an award for her poetry Just give me a cool drink of water ‘fore I die. Her other iconic poems include Still I Rise, The Phenomenal Woman, The Detached and Alone.

“Now if you listen closely

I’ll tell you what I know

Storm clouds are gathering

The wind is gonna blow

The race of man is suffering

And I can hear the moan,

‘Cause nobody,

But nobody

Can make it out here alone.”

(A stanza from Alone)

Her words wholly clinch the reader and touch him/her deep in their soul, like those of a spellbinder.

“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.”

(A stanza from Still I Rise)

What truly inspires me about Angelou is that she deals with intolerance, disparity, grievance and unfairness in such a creatively persuasive manner that you are left with no choice but to feel the emotions she is whispering inside your soul.

I have been a big fan of her work and the more I read about her life, the more inspired I am. With a deep, royal voice, Angelou could convince even those on the brink of burning to have faith in themselves, to believe – “we had strength of transformation within us”. She believed that love is a hidden power that enlightens the outer and inner self. It is guidance from the heart that sets an example of self-love.

Being a woman, I believe it to be an honour for me to have lived in the same time as Maya Angelou. Angelou is more than just an influential personality for present-day women, she is the vision, she is the goal. Through her work, she has taught women all over the world to fulfil their dreams, not with the encumbrances of sufferings and tortures but with self-determination and courage.

Here, I share some of my personal favourites from Angelou’s inspiring quotes:

“Be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.”

“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story.”

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

“No sun outlasts its sunset but will rise again and bring the dawn.”

“Love recognises no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination, full of hope.”

“A woman who is convinced that she deserves to accept only the best, challenges herself to give the best. Then she is living phenomenally.”

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

“The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.”

“We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.”

“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”

“No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”

“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

“While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realise and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”

Angelou’s powerful words will encourage people to believe in themselves for generations to come.

May God bless this great soul.

Tanveer Khadim

Tanveer Khadim

An avid reader, freelance writer and a blogger, Tanveer is pursuing fashion designing. She has a passion for cooking, attended cookery courses and tweets as @TheFusionDiary (twitter.com/TheFusionDiary)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shahira

    R.I.P we need her more than everRecommend

  • Najam A. Khattak

    Goodbye Maya Angelou!Recommend

  • Najam A. Khattak

    “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world but has not solved one yet” it is one of my favorite saying.Recommend

  • Sh

    Nice sharing!Recommend

  • Reezvon

    Now I like her even more.Recommend

  • Arfeen

    Her life struggles are good lessons to learn.Recommend

  • Harris Khan

    A Good Read!
    “When old folks laugh, they consider the promise / of dear painless death, and generously / forgive life for happening / to them.” MayaRecommend

  • Rehana Vohra

    Beautifully written article.
    She taught me to appreciate myself at every stage of my life, no matter what hardships I am facing.Recommend

  • Bushra Nasir

    I have gone through terrible experiences a lot of time. reading such people helped in all the way to start life again.Recommend

  • Rohail Adn

    What a phenomenal woman of influence! May her soul rest in peace indeed.Recommend

  • Tariq Waheed

    @writer
    Interesting article!!!!
    Maya Angelou depicts feminist thinking……but her quotes are very inspirational.Recommend

  • Dr. Rifaqat Shah

    Dear Writer,
    You have added all beautiful quotes of Professor Maya Angelou. I am sharing some poetry of Shakespeare.
    ‘Tis beauty, that doth oft make woman proud;
    ’tis virtue that doth make them most admired;
    ’tis modesty that makes them seem divine.Recommend

  • Mubashir

    It is a long way to go to change people’s attitude to have a new reformed society in every culture.Recommend

  • Nouman Khan

    Isn’t it amazing how many people still don’t know her and achievementsRecommend

  • Rayan

    @Author,
    Your quote selection is awesome, I liked it.
    My fav……Knowledge shared is knowledge born. MayaRecommend

  • Mehmat

    What an amazing read.
    who says words have no power look at them closely. they will inspire you to be a better person.Recommend

  • Farhat

    I really loved it “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story.”Recommend

  • Aqeel Farhan

    @Tanveer
    Your nice little tribute to her is beautiful. She will be greatly missed. RIPRecommend

  • Dan

    Excellent article!
    She showed herself as the one who built empowerment out of serious struggle and suffering. An approach we can learn from.Recommend

  • Dani

    Out of adversity , comes success. Dr Maya Angelou may have departed this life , but her words live on. An extraordinary achievement .Recommend

  • Hira

    Inspirational womanRecommend

  • Naureen

    Her words had great meaning. RIP Maya AngelouRecommend

  • Aliya Qadri

    All are lovely quotes.Recommend

  • Farhat

    A very beautiful quote “Love recognises no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination, full of hope.”Recommend

  • Rubab

    You only knew of her glory through her impressive voice.Recommend

  • Sab

    Folk wisdomRecommend

  • Aq

    “I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise” indeed a deep poetry conveying the message of hope and inspiration.Recommend

  • Umer

    Passing of her is a tragic lossRecommend

  • MD

    Her words shone light to the people dwelling in dark.Recommend

  • Hafizullah

    Reading Maya Angelou’s above mentioned quotes felt like I knew her since ages.Recommend

  • Shaheena

    I like her poetry The Phenomenal Woman too much.Recommend

  • Shaheena

    I like her poetry The Phenomenal Woman too much.Recommend

  • Rozina

    Maya Angelou knew it well how important she was to women. I think she will remain important to the humanity everywhere.Recommend

  • Asim

    Wonderful woman with great wisdom, love and achievements.Recommend