These are the days when I’m taken back to barrettes and braids, little corduroy jumpers and precious little shoes. Days like this and news like this take me back to childhood days of drawing on sidewalks and bikes with extra wheels. The careless days, the days when you knew you mattered and couldn’t ever imagine otherwise.
Because I was a lucky little colored girl.
Maya’s voice was big enough, the stories she told important enough, that my careless days were joyful days. I was a colored girl who mattered because the stories of little colored girls were being told, and read, and thought about. Little colored girls had, thanks to Maya, become people, too. Our preciousness had finally become manifest because her words so pierced through the minds and hearts of a nation that had not really stopped to see us.
And when I was old enough to start to understand that what made me “matter” was relative, that it grew in some eyes and shrank significantly in others, that’s when her stories became most important for me. I was a colored girl who could read and reflect, who could re-read as she got older and learn more and more from the stories… Maya’s voice was big enough, the stories she told important enough, that my days of sadness and confusion became learning days. I was a colored girl who could transform.
And now that I’ve fully stepped into the world on my own, making a woman’s choices along the way, her legacy looms large over me. I am a colored girl who understands that I walk on paths well trodden, that where I may have opportunity to push there will be others who follow, and that my actions in peace and thoughtfulness are the best way to honor those who’ve come before. Maya’s voice was big enough, the stories she told important enough, that my new challenges are illuminated by her beautiful wisdom. I am a colored girl who can transcend and perform.
Because of Maya, I never was and will never be “just” a colored girl. I am a colored girl. Such knowledge is as protective as steel, as sacred as prayer, as warm as a glowing fire, as perfect as a rising sun. In my nothingness to some (to many), I am everything to more. I am everything to myself.
What we have left are the words, and the words, in time, will be the ultimate legacy. But for those of us who were privileged enough to have heard her speak or to feel the gravitas of her presence, she lives in us for just a little longer. Every little colored girl living inherits just a little bit of her grace. We get to divide it among ourselves, use it as we so choose. Some of us will wear it, display it proudly as we walk, speak it with power and share it with the little girls who follow us. We will teach the words because the words will live forever and ever. The grace, though, we have to kindle, grow, and give.
I am so sad today. My lungs can’t seem to fully fill with air and my heart just can’t seem to find its rhythm. We don’t get many heroes in this life, and so when they leave it is only right to stop and mourn. Dr. Angelou lived a life of great meaning and importance and so much of how I think and who I am is thanks to her lessons, stories and poems. My tears today come from gratitude more than they come from sadness. These words I type have a tinny sound, so small and inconsequential. I can only honor through a life of peace, dignity and wisdom. I can only show my gratitude through sharing the words, living the grace.
It is a cold and rainy day here in New England and now I know why. May you, dear reader, find peace and wisdom in your day. And if you have opportunity, read a poem or pick up a book. Most importantly, though, choose to do something kind today. May your act of humanity, however big or small, ripple through your community, your grace and presence radiate to others, your words be spoken with truth and power, your heroes loom large over your day.
Quiet Thoughts on Friday.