the Singing Caged Bird is Free

stanza from Maya Angelou’s anthem of a poem, Still I Rise
Out of the hut’s 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. 

maya angelou caged bird still sings
Maya Angelou, April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014

It was in 1969, that the world would begin to ponder the question, Why does the caged bird sing? Maya Angelou was an accomplished performer way before then – a stage actress,  touring Europe in a production of the acclaimed Porgy and Bess, a songstress, recording her first  studio album in 1957, and a dancer, teaming up with the legendary Alvin Ailey, no less, scorching the streets in a calypso.  But in 1969, Maya Angelou would become a star. The release of the autobiographical I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings stunned the literary world, remaining on The New York Times bestsellers list for two years. A revealing look into a challenged life of a young African American woman, battling racism and nearly succumbing to the trauma of rape. And while the subject matter was the foundation of Caged Bird, it was her breathtaking style of writing that would captivate generations.  Its poetic flow and literary nuances, added such depth to the raw, non fictional story, that was her childhood life, made it read more like a sweeping epic and felt like a tragic symphony, with a promising end.

Maya Angelou’s  Insomnia
There are some nights when
sleep plays coy,
aloof and disdainful.
And all the wiles
that I employ to win
its service to my side
are useless as wounded pride,
and much more painful.

Maya Angelou’s rise in stature was neither forced nor  free. She would accept every challenge. An activist during the civil rights era and a voice of the Women’s Rights Movement, but she understood what her contribution to society would be, and embraced the mastery of words, delivering them as gifts of strength, perseverance, truth and life to each of us. She understood the importance of the written-word and how it could transform sorrow into fight, and how it could uplift the soul, giving reason to hold on, even when  there seemed to be no reason to do so at all. I can still hear, as I stood  among a million men in Washington, D.C., her majestic voice floating in midair, capturing our attention in a rhythmic dance, forcing us all to take notice. Not just in her words – historic and strong as they were, but to give assurances, that we remembered she was there.

excerpt from Maya Angelou’s Million Man March Poem 
Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,
Let us come together and revise our spirits,
Let us come together and cleanse our souls,
Clap hands, let’s leave the preening
And stop impostering our own history.
Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,
Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,
Courtesy into our bedrooms,
Gentleness into our kitchen,
Care into our nursery.

Maya Angelou will always be remembered because she is everywhere. Her legacy of words, her fight for equal rights, her courage in battling through severe childhood trauma, her deliverance of  On the Pulse of Morning at the Presidential Inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton,  her regal display of humility as an icon of literature, and her calmness in accepting the 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom, from the nation’s first Black President, even though, the knowing, that her life had come full-circle, must have been overwhelming.

Why does the caged bird sing? That is a question that every man and every woman must answer for themselves, because we sing at different times and for different reasons. But, do not waste too much time thinking about that caged bird. Find out what makes you sing and do it every day.** But if and when we understand the meaning of our life, and fear attempts to invade our happy space, read a poem left behind by Maya Angelou, not just for its literary value, of which it is great, but for the tranquility in the passing of the baton in the circle of life, for we will be holding a contribution from a legend.

– Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger

** {except from Kendall F. Person’s An Angry World}

47 comments

  1. I have been quoting her for years but only recently read my first Maya Angelou book, “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes”. I just love how she expresses herself. Like Yvonne says, “a fierce, yet gentle and humble spirit.” aptly describes her. What I admire about her the most is her honest self assessment. She lived in a time when things were not fair, but like MLK, it was a time to “overcome” not with bitterness and hate but with firm, forward movements. How can you not admire and respect her?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You left 3 comments over a year ago and i did not respond to even one. Please accept my most sincere apologize, as i have no idea how I miss such a gracious guest. So glad you enjoyed the tribute to Maya Angelou and thank you for your expressed enjoyment. You are appreciated very much.

      Like

  2. “Why does the caged bird sing? That is a question that every man and every woman must answer for themselves, because we sing at different times and for different reasons. But, do not waste too much time thinking about that caged bird. Find out what makes you sing and do it every day.”

    Thank you for expressing my motivation for starting my own weblog.

    Like

  3. Reblogged this on lorencarle and commented:
    Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,
    Courtesy into our bedrooms,
    Gentleness into our kitchen,
    Care into our nursery.
    Kendall, thank you for sharing these words of Mother Maya’s. Though I have never heard or read them before, they ar familiar to me and i am grateful for them having been uttered. I’m sure that they have contributed to the rich cultural loam that has nourished me as a man (as has I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings). I cherish these words now in fatherhood. I was going to write on the challenges and joys of being a dad, but I think this sums it up for me for today.

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  4. Great piece Kendall!

    Maya’s words could ignite in one’s heart a gentle fire.
    Some of those words could make frayed hearts get even calmer.

    Many of her words have lifted us all ever so higher…
    …And taken us all to a realm that is definitely better!

    Rest well Mama Maya as you transit to that eternal home where all of this world’s sojourners will someday retire!

    Like

  5. A very well said homage to a beautiful soul. Maya Angelo has been one of my inspirations; her poetry I always find amazing. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a poem I originally composed as my own way of paying a tribute to her:

    Rest In Peace Maya Angelo: A Poem

    I noticed why
    My thoughts wander
    In the still point

    Of the sea and sky,
    The strong current
    Of your vitality

    Exactly the distance
    Of a sharpest focus
    Found me in the eyes

    Where words
    Washed you up like music
    Creating pulsing waves

    In this graceful exit
    Of the still beautiful,
    Reverberating song.

    Like

  6. So eloquently said for a beautiful soul and spirit. Her body may be gone, but like you said, her words, spirt and energy live on in the body of work she’s left behind. We were so lucky to have had her and for so long. 🙂

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  7. So sad to hear of the death of Maya Angelou. She was such a wise person and magnificent writer. I came across this quote of hers many years ago and have tried to apply it to my life since. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

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  8. Well written biography

    Maya Angelou’s anthem of a poem,
    Still I Rise
    Out of the hut’s of history’s shame, I rise.
    Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise

    Like

  9. I really enjoyed reading this article. It gave more insight into the life Dr. Maya Angelou led before, during, and after her literary journey. I will disagree with focusing on the song that the caged bird sings. I think we should also take a look at the reasoning why the bird is caged and what the bird had to produce to live. However, that is another conversation. Thank you again for the article.

    Like

    • Thank you for adding your voice to this forum. I think your angle about the cage bird is perceptive and insightful. I often say that while I may present a topic within a post, the real wisdom, and knowledge is found down here in the forum where everyone has a voice. You are appreciated and welcome to The Neighborhood.

      Like

  10. She inspired us in every aspect with her written words! The world has lost an iconic voice and inspirational woman. May her Soul Rest in Peace. Most I like of her writings: “Still I Rise” 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. These words are not only reflecting on the sufferings of Africans, but for all people oppressed.

    Like

  11. Hi Kendall,
    The music is very touching and a wonderful tribute to a true icon of our time. She has moved us further along the road to a better future.
    Leslie

    Like

  12. Yes another fantastic piece about a fantastic person. We are blessed in one way, that truth is easier to imagine when poet’s pen and type-struck bloggers repeat the clarion call for justice to one and to all.

    Like

  13. Awesome tribute to a legendary of our time Kendall! Such an icon with a fierce, yet gentle and humble spirit. She inspired many and though her legacy will remain strong and live on for many generations to come, she will be greatly missed. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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