Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I Didn't Understand... Until Now

Photo by Sven Manguard

I didn't understand you.  

I was pretty young when I tried to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  I didn't make it very far.  I lost interest after reading the part about wishing for blond hair and blue eyes.  I didn't understand what you were saying or why it was important.  So I stopped.

Sometime later, after reading the first 2 pages of Alice Walker's The Color Purple, I had decided that I was over trying to read what I considered old and depressing stories by us.  I didn't want to read stories of child molestation, self-hatred, rape, prostitution, abuse, hating men, and extreme poverty.  

I was sick of those things being the only stories that we told.  I refused to immerse myself in any stories where children and innocent people experience and / or exist in the darkest, basest recesses of society that begets unconscionable social behavior.  Especially when it involved people of color and women.  It just wasn't for me.  

In adulthood, I had met so many who read your work, related to it, and adopted it into their being, which surprised me.  I still didn't understand.  My feelings had not changed.

I slowly came back around to you.  I enjoyed some of your poetry, and took to heart so many of your quotes that I had found around the Web.   I gained an admiration for your way with words, but I still couldn't bring myself to read more.

After watching your interview on OWN, I felt so proud of you.  I learned more about your story and thoughts.  You emerged as someone who deserved the utmost respect for all that you've done for people of color and for women.  I was riveted by the story you told, but even still, I couldn't bring myself to read your books.

When I opened up my Facebook page on May 28th, I saw such an outpouring of love and statements on how much you and your work had meant to many of my peers, celebrities, and dignitaries.  It touched me in a way that I didn't expect.  What I saw was your legacy.

You are no longer here in body, but in spirit you are here always, woven into the very fabric of our history, of our struggles, of our humanity, and of our future.  It's amazing to see all of the people who you've touched and inspired through your honesty, through your experiences, and through your life.  I look at all the pictures of you with your head thrown back in a bout of laughter.  Victorious.  

That's when I got it.  I finally understood.  

Your darkest hours happened, but you didn't allow them to define you as less than or unworthy.  Those experiences made you strong.  

Despite pain and struggle, you've emerged as a priceless gem, shining as a beacon of hope for every single one of us.  Smiling brightly and in victory.

Thank you for your gift.  Thank you for your courage.  Thank you for your grace.  May God bless you, Ms. Angelou, as you have blessed all of us.  Rest in Power.


  1. I'm glad you wrote this and I had the opportunity to read it. I had similar thoughts when I tried reading her books as a young lady. I, an extreme lover of words and books, probably got as far as you did in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Took decades to get back to that. But I still followed her career, I still read articles and poems and gazed at her on Oprah's stage wishing I was sitting in that very space. Right beside her where her essence could seep on and through me. Out of all the "celebrities" who have passed recently I was affected very deeply by the lose of her from out tangible world because of who she was, what she shared and the love she's spread to all. She has definitely left an amazing legacy that I can feel. Her name will be on the list of all of our great Black leaders, change makers, creatives and lover of our people while making changes and lifting us up through words, power and actions.

    Thanks for writing this. *snaps*

    1. You're so welcome, Petula! Thank you for reading and commenting. :-)

  2. Love this Biba! She has an amazing legacy! Makes you want to get focused and leave your own! What will people say about us when we pass?

    1. She was an inspiration. I ask myself that question often. :-)