when i was 13 my mother heard dr. maya angelou speak and brought me home a copy of all god’s children need traveling shoes. it took me a year before i picked it up, but when i did, i couldn’t put it down. reading about a gifted black woman from a small southern town was the first time i’d seen my reflection in a book; i was moved beyond measure. her experiences with malcolm x and dr. king showed me the humanity of the historical figures we often deify, her time spent in africa showed me that despite space and time we remain connected to our roots and her career as a dancer and writer showed me that creativity has no boundaries. in short, i learned that if a woman who had been molested as a child and grew up in the jim crow south could reach her dreams, then so could i. after reading the book, i promised that i’d live my life just as unchained as dr. angelou.
at the news of her passing my heart is so heavy, not because i’m sad that maya angelou’s physical body has left this earth — her spirit surely remains — but because i hadn’t realized how much she means to me until this very moment. a mighty tree has fallen.
rest well dear maya. may the ancestors rejoice as you rise.