From mute to poet: Maya’ Story 1


“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise”

Maya Angelou

I remember the first time I heard Maya Angelou’s voice. It was my first year in college, and someone down the hall was watching a video and as I passed the door, I stopped. I couldn’t help it, it was something in her voice, an assurance, a truth. Coming from the Middle East, I didn’t know much about her then. I knew her name, knew she was a poet but little did I know that her words would mark me for life.

The first words I heard Dr. Maya speak in that video were these:

Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
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
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

She spoke them, not just like she wrote them, but like she lived them. And she did. Hailing from St. Louis, Maya had a difficult childhood. Born in 1928, she faced racial discrimination, endured her parent’s divorce, was shipped off to Arkansas, fell pregnant at sixteen, left home at seventeen, was abused by a family member, had witnessed a murder and because of the incredible adversity she faced, spent many years mute.
So, how do you go from mute to poet? How do you turn the tables on adversity and win the fight?
You rise.
The three things I always remember from Maya’s words:

Self talk : “ But still, like dust, I’ll rise”
It is so important to tell yourself what you will do. No matter what happens, what they say about you or write about you, tell yourself again and again
“I’ll rise”
You do you: “Does my haughtiness offend you? ’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.“

If you need to soulfully cry, do that. But rise after.
If you need to be a sass queen and laugh like you have gold in your backyard, do that and rise.
If you need to be sexy and dance. Don’t care about what anyone thinks, do it for you and rise.

Cling to hope: “Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise. Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise “

Leave your fears behind, look to the daybreak. His mercies are new every morning. Gather up your strength and your lessons from those gone before you, muster up the courage of your ancestors, look to what is ahead and rise, rise again for there is a new thing tomorrow.

I hope you keep these words close as I have done for all these years.

Happy rising, friends.

About Riyanka Panditha

Hello. I am Riyanka. Commonly referred to as “Ria” and daily loved by my family and friends. I am a child of God, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. I love to sing, dance in the rain and make single servings of cake. I am known for my listening skills and my lack of response to Facebook messages. You can follow my writing more over at I was born in India, raised in the middle east, spent my most growing years in the US, married the hottest Sri-Lankan Australian hunk and moved to Perth, Western Australia 4 years ago! Life is extravagant, yet simple. Extravagant in love, simple in things. Just the way I like it :)

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