“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” ― Maya Angelou Courageous, yes, that’s exactly what Maya Angelou was! She was the world’s renowned African-American author, poet, singer and dancer. Well, sometimes an entertaining actor too, but above all, an extremely inspirational feminist. This Civil Rights Activist has also been known as “America’s Most Visible Black Female Autobiographer” by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. She may not be living among us today, but her inspirational work continues to impact everyone. With a pen in her hand and a paper in front of her eyes, she’s always good to go. Writing, inspiring, rebelling and influencing millions around the globe, yes, that’s how Dr. Angelou had it going. Being a Black Woman in America in the early 1900s, was like being dead meat due to the brutal and excruciating racial discrimination against the Blacks. Back then, all rebellious black women were feminists. One of whom was, Maya Angelou. She was respected as a spokesperson of black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. But before all the respect and the honor that she demanded for, she was a mere slave to the Whites, but unlike every ‘black slave’, Angelou never gave up. She fought back through literature and art. Her famous works ‘Phenomenal Woman’, ‘The Reunion’, ‘Still I Rise’, ‘His Day is done’, etc. still continue to inspire, not only every woman but also the men. She is best known for her series of seven autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and adult experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1969) portrays the first seventeen years of her remarkably tough life. However, this also bought her international recognition, and was nominated for the National Book Award. Angelou was a member of ‘Harlem Writers Guild’. The Harlem Writers Guild (HWG) was an organization consisting of African-American Writers, most of who were excluded from mainstream American literary culture. Harlem was known as a major African-American residential, cultural and business centre that encouraged the African-Americans to get educated and economically stable. The ‘Harlem Renaissance’ was a cultural movement started by the African-Americans and was also known as the ‘New Negro Movement”. This was by far one of the biggest movements initiated by the African-Americans against slavery, racial discrimination and the ‘Whites’. Maya Angelou was one of those strong women who chose to fight their way through to live peacefully. “You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated”, she said, and lived by those words too. She never let herself be defeated and was always hopeful and strong. I’d like to quote from one of my favorite poems by her, “I’m a woman Phenomenal woman, That’s me.” That’s from her poem ‘Phenomenal Woman’ that I suggest, every woman must read and be inspired. Even though her words were written decades ago, they still influence us, they still inspire us, and they still comfort and strengthen us when we feel low. She stood up for every woman and she inspires all of us women, to not just stand up for ourselves, but stand up for each other too. I quote her, “Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” With this thought, she left us all. Maya Angelou passed away at the age of 86 on May 28th, 2014. But, she’s still alive, alive through her works and continues to inspire every reader around the world.
About the Author: This article is contributed by Sonia David, our Intern. Sonia is a funky and sweet girl who is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Communicative English from Jyoti Nivas College, Autonomous in Bangalore. She loves writing, sketching and reading. She believes that women deserve much more and together, women can turn the world right side up!