Icons in Black History - Maya Angelou

Seleste Wyse

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Maya Angelou’s words continue to reverberate in my mind. Her words serve as a road map in how we should structure our daily actions.  Life is not merely pulling through Mondays or getting through the week. Everyone should strive to live their life to the fullest. One should find ways to show creativity in personal areas of expertise. It is this kind of introspection that makes Maya Angelou, and her influence, timeless. 

Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. She died on May 28, 2014. Maya Angelou was a woman of numerous talents. She is well known for her striking poems, “Caged Bird” and “Still I Rise.” The former is an artistic work reminding people that even with barriers and oppression, one does not lose sight of freedom and hope. The latter poem conveys the message that despite any trials or tribulations in life, nothing can keep one down. Her writings manifest the intrinsic beauty in poetry, as she conveyed her personal life experiences into utterly captivating verses.
This multitalented poet was also a Civil Rights activist, an actress, screenwriter, and dancer. Adversity was no stranger to Maya, but she knew how to overcome hardships. While growing up, she experienced a traumatizing incident that left her mute for years. Later, in California, she became the first black female cable car conductor. She temporarily held this job before having her son at age sixteen, which she then worked various jobs to support him. Still, she overcame struggles and worked persistently in her life. 

For Maya, adversity wasn’t something that limited her. In fact, she seemed to thrive in it. She won award nominations for her acting, and had her screenplay produced, which she was the first black woman to do so. Despite any barriers, Maya Angelou reminds her audience that no matter your beginning, you too can overcome any hardship in life; everyone gets knocked down in life, but it is how we get back up that defines us.  

Maya Angelou, A&E Television Networks (last updated Jan. 18, 2018), https://www.biography.com/people/maya-angelou-9185388 

Jan Bruce, The 3 Lessons Maya Angelou Taught Us About Coping, Huffpost (06/12/2014 09:53 am ET), https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mequilibrium/maya-angelou-legacy_b_547935...