This week saw the passing of an inspirational American icon. A black child of divorce, raped at age eight in the Jim Crow South, mute from then until she was 13, pregnant at 17 in San Francisco, Maya Angelou found herself in poverty and crime. But she would rise. Before her death, she would write seven autobiographies, become a prolific poet, teach university courses, influence presidents and the powerful, and receive more than 30 honorary doctorates.
One of her most famous poems is appropriately titled “Still I Will Rise.” Here is one stanza:
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.
In the second half of her life Maya Angelou would focus more and more on the message of the Bible. In a 2013 interview with Oprah, Angelou described reading the line "God loves me" over and over again. And then this comment: “And finally I said, ‘God loves me’ [crying]. It still humbles me that this force that makes leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It's amazing. I can do anything. And do it well. Any good thing, I can do it. That's why I am who I am, yes, because God loves me and I'm amazed at it. I'm grateful for it.”So we have two phrases that belong together: “I will rise” because “God loves me.” Maya, we are grateful for you.