Reflection: In salute of Maya Angelou

Rasharra Smith PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Rasharra Smith PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” — Maya Angelou

I have enjoyed writing since I was young. It was a fun hobby I found back in my elementary school English classes. But it wasn’t until high school that I knew I wanted to be a writer.

In high school, I took AP literature and found the true power of words. I found that pain could be written into words, grief could be released on paper and my voice finally could be heard after feeling as though I had none.

I fell hard for poetry when I read the words of Maya Angelou. The lines filled with such emotion, both warm and intense. She pulls at the heart strings.

Angelou was a poet, author, historian, singer, songwriter, playwright, dancer, producer, director and civil rights activist.

She has been a huge inspiration in my life and has motivated me in my writing career and my interest in film. I strive to be half as successful as she was in her lifetime. She was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

When I speak about my writing career, I give thanks to Angelou for teaching me that words mean more than what is written down on paper. The voices of love and hurt give them meaning.

I’ve written many poems inspired by and in appreciation of Angelou’s work. I decided this month in salute of women that I would share one I’ve written that means a lot to me.

“I know why the caged bird sings.

She sings for freedom. To be released from afflictions placed upon her.

Broken wings and shredded tears. The caged bird sings to let go of fears.

She’s scared of things unknown. Scared to be alone.

The caged bird speaks out and lets her voice be heard.

‘I am here. I live and love. I sorrow and weep. I speak.’

I know why the caged bird sings. She has a song in her heart.

It tells of passion and despair. A song she longed for courage to share.

She sings of things untold. Things that people try to hide. Things people keep inside.

Confined inside her mind. Gave way for expression. A declaration of her soul.

I know why the caged bird sings.

She sings because she craves. She’s hungry for abundance.

She’s calling out your name. She’s calling for a lifeboat that never came her way.

She calls out for strength. Great force pours out of her beak.

Liberation in the melody. Salvation temporarily.

We know why caged birds sing.

They sing for freedom. The sing for relief.

They scream from places deep within them, where they found true belief.

They sing for belief in the power of words.

They sing to be heard.”

Rasharra Smith is a graduate student at the University of Dubuque.

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