The title of my
blog is a tribute to the late and greatly celebrated African-American author
and activist, Maya Angelou, who passed into a greater glory last week.
world renowned books were amongst my prized possessions, especially the first
part of her iconic autobiography: “I know why the caged bird sings.” This title
reached out to my young heart that was also suffering the effects of
lovelessness and emotional abuse. In its confused state, my mind and heart
walked the journey that Dr Angelou walked, despite the fact that I lived in a
different time, place and situation.
The writing was honest, deep, flavoured with unashamed truths
that were hard to swallow. It was the bitterness that I related to and I balked
at the idea that I too could have been born into this wicked world. Maya’s life
and mine were world’s apart but our shared womanly experiences created a bond
that is today unbroken.
Knowing what I
know now, in my half century year, that statement rings as true today as it did
when I was teenager. The world is cruel and it’s still a man’s world where a
woman cannot feel safe. Fear and persecution is our unique female inheritance
and, each generation, has to reinvent itself in order to keep our daughters….and
their daughters……as far from the harsh glare of misogyny as is possible.
Women bleed. Women comfort. Women need. Like many of us, Maya was born into a
world that she was ill prepared for. Abandonment and betrayal dogged her every
step as she suffered for her art and personal progress. Maya was an independent
thinker. She didn’t have a strong person to lean on. She was her own mentor.
In the world she
inhabited, women were objects of desire and derision in equal measures. We’re
still in shackles but they feel a little lighter in the 21st century
as women push against societal conventions, forge a life of their own and pay
their own way.
In her writing,
Maya’s experiences with the opposite sex were less than fulfilling. The male
figures that punctuated her life were either disappointing or disastrous. “A
woman needs a man like she needs a hole in her head” could have been an
alternative title to one of her books.
Maya didn’t need
a shoulder to cry on; hers were strong enough. She didn’t need someone to fix
her; she learnt to do that herself. She didn’t need the little luxuries since
she’d earned the greatest luxury of all: free speech.
Maya flung the
cage door wide open so that no woman need ever feel trapped by her sex. Being
oppressed is not a reason to lose hope. Keep the sunshine in your head when the
dark clouds gather. Let words be stronger than the sword. Let your voice be
heard though the gun may silence it.
The songbird has a short span of life but
the song goes on...... so will the spiritual legacy of Maya Angelou.