Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise” is my favorite poem hands down. In my mind, there is no question as to the greatest poem ever written, “Still I Rise” wins every time.
When I first read this poem, I felt that it was written for me. At the time, I was struggling with my identity as a young black girl in a white world. This poem spoke to me on a deep level because never before had I heard a series of statements that was so true to my life and my story.
Whenever I read this poem or hear it spoken, I am reminded of my ancestors who lived their lives as slaves but pushed through the hatred and persecution; I am reminded of my great-grandparents who were born into sharecropping families in the Deep South but still went to school and held jobs as ministers and teachers. I am reminded of my grandparents who were born into a segregated United States, who pushed through the discrimination to become respected members of their communities, teachers, ministers, and Colonels in the United States Air Force. I am reminded of my own parents who have had to live through raising children in a country where young black people have been shot simply for being black. I am reminded of all of the successful black people who have ever grown up in the United States of America: Barack Obama, Cory Booker, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., and more.
Most of all, when I read or hear this poem, I think of all of the successful and inspiring black women who have paved the way for all young black girls: Phillis Wheatley, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Audre Lorde, Shirley Chisolm, Misty Copeland, Zendaya, Missy Elliott, Mae Jemison, Florence Griffith Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Loretta Lynch, Ella Fitzgerald, Suzan-Lori Parks, Keke Palmer. The list goes on and on. Also, if you don’t know who the women on this list are, you need to, they have informed your history more than you know.
Now, I’m just going to leave on the of the poetic masterpieces of all time for your perusal…
If you want to hear Maya Angelou read this jewel that she has bestowed upon us, click here.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in histor
With your bitter, twisted lies
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.