572 words- medium length read- 2 ½ mins
About two weeks ago, I had the sudden urge to re-read Phenomenal Woman, my favorite of Maya Angelou’s poems. I’m not sure why this sudden wanting came over me, but the desire was strong.
Mother Maya is one of my she-ros, as she is to so many other women (and men alike). Her influence transcends young and old, black, white, and brown. I can’t help but calling her mother because that’s what she feels like to me. She possessed a mothering power and presence that not even death can disband; what she taught us through her intimate dance with words is far too strong. She was a mother to me, to a bunch of other little black girls, to the nation in which she fought against racism and racist policies for so long, and to the world.
I remember being introduced to her work as a little girl by my own mother, who insisted that I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. My mother also encouraged me to recite one of Angelou’s popular poems, Still I Rise, at my 6th grade recital.
I’ll never forget practicing in my living room for weeks, begging my mom and dad to listen as I tried to recite every line perfectly. My mother coached me not to read such a dynamic poem in such a dry tone. I remember the floral dress I was wearing, where I was standing, and the hot lights shining on me as I boldly (or as boldly as one could in the 6th grade) recited the poem in front of an auditorium full of elementary school children and their parents.
As much as Still I Rise meant to me in my childhood years, Phenomenal Woman was its counterpart as I continued to grow into a young woman. At 26, quickly approaching 27, I’m so thankful my mother introduced me to Mother Maya as a source to draw and learn from in my impressionable youth. Thank goodness Destiny Child’s Bootylicious and Can You Pay My Bills weren’t the only messages I was retaining as I was blossoming into a lady.
Mother Maya taught me about a woman’s confidence, without explicitly telling me how to be confident. It was in the way that she put her words together that gave me the example. She was very open about the importance of faith in her life and in her journey. That it was necessary. That Christianity is not a destination, but a life-long walk.Such truth, I find myself on this walk today.
Yet I’m still not sure about the sudden wanting to re-read Phenomenal Woman after all of these years, and even more interestingly is this desire coming just two weeks before Mother Maya’s transition. Maybe this feeling was a reminder, to bring me to where I am right now in this very moment reflecting over the power of her words in my life. Maybe I’m not yet that phenomenal woman I so strive to be? Certainly not by the unreachable standards I can sometimes place on myself that is. Or maybe I am? Maybe it’s a reminder to not be so hard on myself, to realize and give into the process of life— the walk. To know that thanks to my mother, my grandmother, and so many other loving female influences that I am a woman phenomenally made and molded. A Phenomenal woman, I guess that’s me. Mother Maya, thank you.