Maya Angelou: an inspiration to so many

News of yesterday's death of an inspiring and great African-American woman Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014) has caused me to revisit some of her writing. I will not give a potted biography - her official site has one here.

If you know nothing about her then I recommend starting with 'I know why the caged bird sings', an autobiography of her early years, first published in 1969. When I read it in 1970 it had a profound effect on me. I was then a newly qualified social worker struggling for the first time with a case involving child sexual abuse and incest. Her book helped me to see a little of the child's point of view, as well as understanding more about racial and gender discrimination. And yet somehow it is a hopeful book, especially in the light of all she achieved since her first 17 years which that book is about.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from Dr Maya Angelou:
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."
"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song."
"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
And finally an explanation of why writers write:
"We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans — because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone- because we have the impulse to explain who we are. Not just how tall we are, or thin… but who we are internally… perhaps even spiritually. There’s something, which impels us to show our inner-souls. The more courageous we are, the more we succeed in explaining what we know."

Rest in peace Maya Angelou. 

Image Credit: commons wikimedia


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