Thursday, December 14, 2017

Maya Angelou conquered her oppressors

Maya Angelou was an actress, a poet, historian, author, playwright, civil-rights activist and mother who passed away at 86.

She dedicated her life to end prejudices faced by many black females in the 20th century. In spite of the racial discrimination and hindrances she was recognised as a successful and dynamic writer and African-American activist.

The poem “Still I Rise” is one of Angelou’s autobiographical poems that focuses on her early adulthood experiences, the obstacles and oppressors on the “ground” and rising above them all. The phrases “I rise” and “Still I rise” are used repetitively throughout the poem and rising dust applies to each and every one of us.

Anyone facing cruelty or discrimination might be buoyed up by her poem, “Still I Rise”:

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise

Though motherhood is the issue that is addressed briefly at the end of the poem, it is one of the shared experiences of black women in America. The “you” refers to the white race and that the “I” is the black race.

The figurative speech is a discussion between black and white, Maya Angelou (black) was proud of her cultural heritage. “Maya is pretentiously assuring the audience that she will ‘rise’ to any occasion and her colour won’t hold her back.

Caged Bird and Still I Rise portrays a similar message:

In Caged Bird, the black race is trapped within due to the colour of their skin, whereas in Sill I Rise, the black person (Maya) seems liberated from her colour.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom

Angelou will be remembered for her prestigious achievements in the Civil Rights Movement. Actions of Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and the trials of Brown vs The Board of Education of Topeka, and Plessy vs Ferguson (Separate but Equal, 1896) are examples of memories how blacks have struggled for equality in the past. The election of US President Barack Obama, a freedom of movement for all Americans, is promising.

Betty Baba

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