like a woman who knows
her hips may start a revolution
hands held with the man of a
Black movement, so rough, so beautiful,
so full of black pride
a poem written, writing,
over brown bodies and women
the mourning I found out you had passed
I swear, I woke up with a heaviness,
there was a heaviness i could not explain
You were the essence of love
So much souuul in a Black man
a Black man only
wanting to uprise, I understand
my words will be strong enough
I will break through, you
were a boulder in the movement
too heavy to move, to change
but a backbone still
Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)
The morning of May 28, 2014, I woke up with a blues singing deep in my soul, similar to the feeling of lost love. And perhaps, it was. Growing up as a writer, I had always heard about Dr. Maya Angelou and what it meant to be a phenomenal woman, full of love and conquering adversity. I’ve never read any of her many books, but her words have always lived inside me. Her capacity to love everyone despite her troubling past is overwhelmingly inspiring. In her book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, she reveals, at the age of seven, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and went mute for five years after feeling responsible for her rapist’s murder by her uncles. She authored more than 30 best-sellers of fiction and non-fiction. She also worked as an activist alongside Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Angelou is an example of what it means to excel even when it seems all the odds are against you. She is symbol for love and perseverance for all. Her words not only inspire writers, but people from all races, ethnicities, and ages across the world. Her legacy of love will continue to transcend even into the next generation. Love is more powerful than hate, more powerful than sorrow, and more lasting than life. We see that through you. Mother Angelou, thank you for your love and understanding. May you live forever in our hearts and forever in paradise.
Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014)
Amiri Baraka was a playwright, poet, educator, and activist. Although his involvement in the Black Arts Movement was controversial in nature, his creation of the Black Arts Repertory Theater created a space for a more artistic take on the Black Power movement and allowed African-Americans to define themselves among a society of oppression. The Black Arts Movement was created by Baraka after the assassination of Malcolm X for artists to use their gifts as a way to communicate issues in society and the politics of the Black community. Baraka has influenced many artists today with his words, his courage, and his strength. Although sometimes perceived as a radical and very exclusive to the heterosexual Black man, his vision to combine art and politics is something that I look up to.
There is something to say about those who use their gifts to make a change in the world. These two writers mean so much to me because they stood for something and created action to achieve it. Our generation is going through our own struggles right now and it’s up to us to leave a legacy we want to be remembered by. Use your gifts whether that be poetry, music, science, history, etc., to teach and inspire others to stand for something, so that we can let our voices be heard and ultimately make a difference in the world.
By Taylor Vinson, The Black Bear