This summer I spent quite a bit of time reading the works of Maya Angelou. Last night, I was reminded of one of her poems:
And Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise I rise I rise.
About three years ago my eyes started to open to the reality of the world around me--the oppression, the power dynamics, the inequality, the racism--and my own privelage in all of it. It is not something I can avoid. It plays out in my life daily as I work, as I teach, as I walk down my street, as I exist.
I live in a community of superheroes, who have survived while people like me have thrived off of their bodies, their labor. Our history and our present is fucked up, and we must begin to see the ways in which our systems work against Black lives in every way.
May we start to speak up for justice and listen better to those voices we have ignored for so long. May we learn to love better. May I be a better neighbor.