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“To know her life story is to simultaneously wonder what on earth you have been doing with your own life and feel glad that you didn’t have to go through half the things she has.”- The Guardian writer Gary Younge, 2009.
Such was the essence and impact of Maya Angelou , a lady whose story should be known to each one of us.
Her journey is exemplary and she emerged out to be victorious and found positivity in her ever-so depressed life. One could not ignore the persistence she displayed throughout her tumultuous journey.
“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I am not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size.
But when I start to tell them,
They think I am telling lies.”
She was an American – African woman who was a victim of extreme racial discrimination . People scorned her over her dark complexion, her fuller lips and the huge waist size. Such cliche was the concept of beauty that anyone who did not have blonde hair, blue eyes and fair complexion was deemed to be unacceptable and ugly as per the societal norms.
This was not her only struggle, as her background and history was as disturbing beyond imagination. She saw her parents getting separated when she was just three years old and later she was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend when she was just seven years old. The man was caught and jailed only for one day and then murdered later under unknown circumstances. The trauma of being a victim of sexual abuse left an indelible mark on her mind. The impact of the incident was so deep that she spoke nothing at all for a period of five long years, to which she later commented,” I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name and then I thought I would never speak again because my voice would kill anyone.”
This was the time when she found her love for reading books and writing poems, which in turn reflected the experiences of her life.
As a destitute woman, she had no choice but to grab any opportunity which could be a source of income for her. She worked as a fry cook, a prostitute and even a nightclub dancer. Another life changing incident was when she was left alone pregnant at the age of 17 by a man who later turned his back on her and she was left alone to face the problems of being an unmarried single mother. But what she achieved ultimately, sums up her entire story of being one of the most successful women this world will ever witness.
Maya Angelou lead a life which was full of betrayals, sexual abuses and discrimination which caused her immense mental trauma. But she was courageous enough to battle against her depression and emerge out to be a warrior who successfully made a mark in an artistic arena from working as a composer to writing articles, short stories and tv scripts, documentaries, autobiographies and even producing plays. Not only is she known to be a civil rights activist but she has been labeled the ‘Black Feminist’, a woman who devoted her entire life to make people understand through her work that a woman should be given equal rights without discriminating her on the basis of her colour or gender.
Mary Angelou became the first person to make an inaugural recitation at the inauguration of the President since Robert Frost made one in the year 1961. She also won a Grammy for her recitation.
As she once said,
” I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.”,
Her autobiography, “I know why the caged birds sing” gave her world wide recognition. It was mainly through her writings that she was able to inspire the women all over the world to overcome discrimination with the power of their talent, their innate strength and beauty which lies within each one of us.