An Open Letter to Dr. Maya Angelou

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Dear Dr. Angelou,

Today you rest in paradise, and my feelings, dare I say it, are extremely selfish. I know you are at ease, enlightening the afterlife with your instrumental peace and glory … but I want you here… with me.

I do not recall the day I fell in love with you. Maybe it was in middle school, when I gazed at your lyrics in seventh grade English, unable to decipher the insight, but willing to feel the emotion with curious intensity. Or maybe it was in high school, when I began to explore literature and dissect the roots of Black culture and feminism. Perhaps I fell in love with you in college, when I was mature enough to grasp not only your lyrics, but the contexts which encapsulated them.

Yes, it was definitely in college! Your potent words gave me solace as I experienced subtle racism by the hands of classmates and administrators. Your words helped me grow into my Blackness without any fear or shame.

What I appreciated most about your wisdom is how unimposing you were in expressing it. A few seconds listening to you speak, it was clear that you were comfortable and relaxed, both in your message and the environments in which you delivered them. No matter where you were or who you were with, you remained in full control of your gracious expression. Such confidence was intimidating. However, the intimidation was remarkably balanced with warmth. Your energy was breathtaking and inviting. You were honest.

What’s most remarkable about you is how you were able to hone in to Black woman, yet inspire broad appeal across all demographic markers. White women, Black men, homosexuals … your audience was immensely diverse; so diverse, that it was magical. To date, I cannot comprehend how you were able to unify groups of people with the flick of the pen and the sound of your voice. You are not only a staple in the Black female community, you are a beacon for humanity as a whole.

You never steered me wrong. You helped me become a phenomenal woman, unafraid to embrace my brand of femininity or womanhood. You encouraged me to persevere despite the color of my skin, the kinks of my hair, or the shape of my genitals. You allowed me an idol that I had (and still have) no qualms in supporting.

So yes, I am selfish in my sadness. I miss you, and I want you here … with me. I regret never having had a private conversation with you. I regret never having had a hug from you. I regret never having told you how you helped me rise as a respectable woman.

I have yet to tell you that you were phenomenal. And for that, I am sad.


A Black Millennial

Arielle Newton is Founder and CEO of m.a.d.e., a start-up non profit promoting racial justice and gender equality through e-activism. She also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Black Millennial Musings.


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