Maya Angelou was a force in literature, poetry, and culture. She embodied and expressed a shared sense of empowerment, lending her strength and words to help others rise out of struggle toward a greater sense of belonging and self-acceptance. In honor of her passing, we brought her poem Still I Rise inside to share with the women and to foster discussion on the impact of her writing and her life.
What followed was powerful. We shared what we knew about her, her quotes, favorite lines, what change she wrought. Most often, women would motion to their hearts and say things like, “She inspired me,” or “She was so strong.” Sometimes the power of a poem is not direct, its impact unclear. When we write, we may even suffer doubt that poems matter or do any healing work in this world. That was not the case here; not her work, not this poem.
Below, you will find excerpts from many of the women. They heard the word rise, heard the call in the poem and each responded uniquely and beautifully. A single poem unfolded into a growing dialogue that continues to dance in the interplay between the self and community for each of us. Here, there is both struggle and belonging and visions of rising together that surpass the limits of the page.
I ask myself how do I love
if I’m not loved. Why so much
hate and anger in the world. I
breathe, is it real or am I just me.
I hope I awaken from this
nightmare. Cause again, I ask myself
where do I belong? It’s so quiet,
am I alone or am I free?
* * *
I am sober now and trying to deal with this extreme pain I have. No, it is not easy. Every day is a struggle. But now I am determined to get through this and make this be a new start to my life. As soon as I step foot out this door, I want to feel I have risen again and in time, I feel I will!
* * *
I rise from the ashes of my soul and I rise into freedom from bondage. Friends and family
inspire me to find strength. I rise for the beauty of my soul. I speak with courage and
confidence, with grace and compassion. I have wisdom and insight that help me to rise to
the occasion. I am bold and full of love. I have so much to offer the world. Therefore, I rise .
* * *
Those true friends who come and visit me every weekend since many months ask me: ‘the
best gift you can offer to us and you is to come back alive. We are with you for ever. We are part of your belonging…
I can’t survive and rise without you!
I want you, thank you, help you one day, rise with you . . . a survivor.
Never for a human survivor is it possible to rise and give back, supposedly.
* * *
I think that the treasure which lies within me is a small candle burning in me now, that I
will never lose and that is hope for life. Rising when someone puts me down because I don’t know what they’ve been through themselves.
If you looked me in the face today, what would you choose to see? If you looked me in the eyes right now, how deep would you go? How deep would you go? I could take you on a journey, a journey well unknown. I could take you on the ride of your life, if you’d like to go. Would you like to go?