Life Lessons From Maya Angelou #poet #wisdom


(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The American poet, author and activist has died at the age of 86. BBC Culture rounds up the words that gave her strength.

Maya Angelou is best known for her 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of seven volumes of autobiography telling the story of her life in the Deep South. She documented overcoming poverty, racial discrimination and giving birth as a teenager: here, she talks about what gave her strength.

Find your voice

“My mother knew that it was dangerous for me to become silent. That’s still so, 69 years later… I sing, I speak, I speak loudly and firmly… because mutism is like a drug, it’s so addictive – you don’t have to do anything.”

 Love liberates

“Love liberates, it doesn’t just hold – that’s ego…. When [my mother] was on oxygen and fighting cancer for her life, I remembered her liberating me, and I said: ‘I hope I’ll be able to liberate her’.”

 Still I rise

“Everyone in the world has gone to bed one night or another with fear, or pain, or loss, or disappointment – and yet each of us has awakened arisen, somehow made our ablutions, seen other human beings and said: ‘Morning, how are you?’ ‘Fine, thanks – and you?’.”

I am a human being

“No matter how heinous the crime, if a human being did it, I have to say I have in me all the components that are in her, or in him – I intend to use my energies constructively as opposed to destructively.”

Never alone

“When I step up on a stage, when I stand up to translate, when I go to teach my classes, when I go to direct a movie, I bring everyone who’s ever been kind to me with me – black, white, Asians, Spanish-speaking, native American, gay, straight – everybody. I say: ‘Come with me, I need you now’.”


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