The legendary Maya Angelou would have been 90 years old today. Despite her difficult childhood, she went on to live a fascinating life. Born Marguerite Annie Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, she spent much of her childhood with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. She was sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend at the age of 4 and, after he was found murdered, she felt that by telling on him, her voice had killed him. She didn't utter a word for 5 years after that. It was during this time that she discovered the poets and authors that ultimately would shape her future.
Dr. Angelou held many jobs throughout her life. At the age of 16, she was the first black female streetcar conductor. She has said that it was the pretty uniforms that made her want the job, but it was her determination that got it. When she first applied, they laughed and refused to hire her. She went back there every day for 2 weeks. She arrived before the other employees, took breaks when they did, but made sure she always returned before them, and she always stayed until after they went home. After doing that every day for 2 weeks, the manager hired her. It was that job that taught her how much she enjoyed working. She went on to hold numerous job titles after that and, in her lifetime, she wrote more than 30 books and received more than 50 honorary degrees.
Whenever I am feeling lost or need some uplifting, I turn to her poems. Her words have the ability to awaken the strength and courage within you. So eloquent, yet so empowering. Still I Rise is my all time favorite poem. I recently had the words tattooed on my inner arm to serve as a reminder that whatever life may throw at me... Still, like air, I'll rise.
Happy Birthday, Queen!