She approached me, forty-five minutes after I read the news in disbelief on Twitter. I was thrown off, not by her question but by the facts of the matter; Dr. Maya Angelou had passed away. Maya Angelou was the woman to whom I am forever indebted to. At the age of 10 or 11, I read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings after my mother pushed me to read the autobiography and after naming my sister after the author. I fell in love and instead of becoming a veterinarian, I wanted to write. I’m here today, following my dream – without a paycheck (for now), without having ‘renowned author’ after my name and international audiences applauding my work. And that’s okay.
It wasn’t until When Morgan Pitts and Lindsay Adams came together and started #BlackGirlsWhoBlog, that I realized the blog community for women of color was larger than I had initially imagined. If you googled ‘blogs by young black women‘ you wouldn’t find MOST of us, but we were there, we exist. Out of all of us, none have made it to Necole Bitchie and Demetria Lucas status. Some of us do it because we want something greater to come out of it, while some of us do it because it’s the bandage to the wounds the naked eye can’t see. We write because it’s become apart of us. Like Dr. Angelou, we want nothing more than to be heard in the midst of societal oppressions, to find some comfort in sharing our stories with other phenomenal women who can’t verbalize their emotions and believe they don’t matter. Instead of succumbing to the stereotypes, we rise above the occasion everytime we pick up a notepad or open a notes app and write down our darkest fears and our dreams that we pray won’t get deferred.
We write for the little girls who feel caged and fiend to be free. We were once those young women. It burns us when we can’t let it out. Writing was the love we turned to when no one else understood and sat there without judgment. We penned our pain on paper. It’s been our safe haven, our place of refuge. The scribble scrabble of our script meant nothing until we looked back at it and witnessed an evolution of self.
You may not understand it but love is something that’s hard to explain to begin with.
I could open up my journal and write freely, be candid, love wholeheartedly. I’d open my legs to a man and could not do the same. There was a special intimacy in writing. Intimacy; into–me–see. It looked into a part of me I didn’t know existed. I made love to words and it pleased me mentally and emotionally.
The love lived in one and I often tried to find it elsewhere. It was always there. Even when I took breaks for months on end and abandoned it, it never left.
And Dr. Angelou’s words will do the same. That is a legacy, a life worth living.
So I looked up at the woman who was twice, maybe three times my age, and told her I was the young woman who first heard of the news of Maya Angelou’s death at work. She asked me if I read her work and if I liked to write and I proudly responded yes to both.
You’re a baby in age compared to me and of all the people working today, you cared. She mattered to you and she meant the world to me.
She grabbed me on the train station platform, this stranger, in front of people on their way to work and school, and hugged me. And we cried.
Whatever you do, keep writing. Your words will matter when you’re long gone too.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
Mother Maya knew before we did. That is why we write.