My Tribute to Maya Angelou



Would you believe me when I tell you that I was a theatrical child growing up??? I loved being the center of attention, singing in the church choir, performing at school events, public speaking and cheerleading. For some odd reason I’ve never had any issues getting up in front of large crowds and performing. It might have something to do with my Father, he constantly put me in uncomfortable situations where I had to speak in front of adults when I was young. For whatever reason, to this day, I’m pretty great in front of large crowds. I looked forward to any public speaking that was required in school. I was an art major, so not only am I brave and bold I am super creative. I do not remember all of the speeches I gave but I do remember one. 


In 8th grade while attending Vaca Pena middle school, in Vacaville Ca, my social studies class required me to recite a speech in front of the class by heart. One night while looking through endless books for speeches to recite, I ran across a book of poems by Maya Angelou. My Mother and Father didn’t have a lot of money, but they invested in a lot of books. I’m not sure who purchased this book of poems, but the book changed my life. 

I decided on this poem:

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size 
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips, 
The stride of my step, 
The curl of my lips. 
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman, 
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please, 
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees. 
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees. 
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes, 
And the flash of my teeth, 
The swing in my waist, 
And the joy in my feet. 
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered 
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them, 
They say they still can’t see. 
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back, 
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed. 
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud. 
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels, 
The bend of my hair, 
The palm of my hand, 
The need for my care. 
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
—Maya Angelou

During the last line I sashayed back to my seat as the class roared, my teacher teared up and I was satisfied because I didn’t mess up. After class my teacher told me she was honored to be my teacher, and said I would do big things with life. I know my performance was top notch, but the material I recited was the real winner.

After that class I was a Maya Angelou fan for life. Whenever I was happy, sad, angry or mad, I read her poems and she always inspired me to be the best woman I could be. 

Growing up as a black girl in Vacaville was interesting. I grew up predominately around White people. I’m not complaining about my childhood, but I’m stating a fact. There wasn’t many people for me to look up to that looked like me,  other than my parents and their friends. Everyone at school looked different from me, which I became used to and tended to use to my advantage. But there was nothing like getting home from a long day, always feeling like an outsider, sitting down/laying down on my and bed curling up with a Maya Angelou book. She made me feel strong, she made me feel brave, she made me have pride within myself and my color. Her words were strong. She shaped me into the woman that I am today.

I am disappointed that I will never meet Maya Angelou. Hearing that she has passed a few days ago makes my heart aches but I’m still happy. She touched my world and changed my life. This is my tribute to her: 

I will keep moving forward 
I will keep my head up 
I will keep the pride in my steps and my eyes 
I will become successful
Because I am a woman
Don’t you see
I am a woman
Phenomenally


Thank you Maya Angelo for shaping me into the woman that I was born to be. You will forever be missed.



Blessings
Mary 

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