It was a week ago today that Maya Angelou passed away, and it was a major event, for the media, for women of color, for writers, and for me. She was a powerful influence in many lives, including mine. She taught me some things about being strong, having no regrets, and most importantly, about being myself.
The day she died, Twitter blew up. Any publication that matters devoted tributes to this formidable woman. What could I possibly have to say that hasn’t already been said? Little old me? I never met her, never got the chance to hear her speak or read from her poetry in person. I am humbled by the very thought of all that she accomplished. She was, as she declared in her poem, a Phenomenal Woman. (Listen to her reading it here.)
But wait a minute. I too, in my own way, am a “phenomenal woman,” like so many women I know. Mothers, sisters, aunts, friends, and grandmothers. They are not famous. You probably wouldn’t recognize them if you passed them in the street. They haven’t won any fashion awards for wearing next to nothing at all. They haven’t been featured in any major publication. But they are powerful. They are phenomenal indeed.
And because of women like them, you and I are phenomenal. I will utilize one of Maya Angelou’s most famous quotes to talk to you about some of them and how they inspire me:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
One phenomenal woman I know…
- Listens to me. She makes me feel like I’m worth listening to. She’s one of my moms.
- Has shown me that the little things add up to big things. She makes me feel like a big thing. She’s also one of my moms.
- Works, is a mom to three, and is a rock. She makes me feel like there is no one better to be than myself. She’s one of my sisters.
- Is a mom to two boys, super smart, and hilarious. She makes me feel like laughing. She’s also one of my sisters.
- Has a smile that can light up a room. She travels the world, reads voraciously, and takes on whatever the world throws at her without batting an eyelash. She’s beautiful and makes me feel beautiful too.
- Created an online community and shares a little of herself so we can watch her grow. She makes me feel strong and probably doesn’t even know it. (Now she does.)
- Is a mom to two beautiful girls, works and goes to college full time, and plays the right music at the right moment. She calls me “sis” and makes me laugh out loud.
- Is a comedian, a writer, a student, and someone who works all hours of the night to help support her family. She makes me feel smart–wicked smaht.
- Knows everyone in her community, is a mom to an amazing young man, and knows when to talk and when to listen. She makes me reach out when I’m feeling shy.
- Has a million things on her plate but always makes time to talk to her students. She makes me want to write.
- Is a writer and a scholar. She reminds me that I am also a writer.
These are just a few of the phenomenal women that I know. Maya Angelou’s poem reminds us that each of us is phenomenal in our own unique way. Because we believe we are. And we have to remind each other every now and then.
So what could I—little old me—have to say about a powerful force such as Maya Angelou? Thanks for the reminder. You made me feel phenomenal and you reminded me how lucky I am to know so many phenomenal women.