I can remember when I was a kid, I love to write. I wrote based on the assignments I was given. I never wrote for pleasure. It wasn’t until 8th grade Honors English, I will never forget Ms. Moore, giving us reading material such as Poe and Shakespeare, but she pulled me aside, the only African-American child in her class and she an African-American teacher and told me about “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I instantly knew I wanted to read it. The library did not have a copy, but I remember her loaning me one of her copies for the summer and adding to my summer reading including a book by Dori Sanders, a local woman from the small town of Filbert, South Carolina. My world was forever changed. I began to write more than I was writing. I was writing things of greater substance than I had written before that summer. I was writing about my eighth grade mind and had already been published in the local paper at the ripe age of twelve for a poem that I wrote and submitted. I didn’t know until reading these two books that my writing could have a different meaning. I went on to write for the newspaper in a teen column called Fast Forward and continued to devour books and read poetry by the greats. I discovered Langston Hughes and read Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. Great writers, great words, I began to see words and word usage in a different light. I began to see that the words could paint my life in different hues.
I was saddened on Wednesday Morning May 28th, 2014 to hear that the woman who painted the canvas of so many lives had passed away. I knew that she could not live forever, however, she was a single solitary figure that you could not envision your life without knowing that she was there. I still to this day go back and pull out her poetry and her words when I need a little encouragement. Dr. Angelou lead a phenomenal life. A life that I could never imagine being brave enough to lead. She was stronger than any piece of marble in my eyes and had many lessons to give young people like me through her words. As soon as I heard of her passing away, I envisioned what it would be like to have my daughter read her words during the summer. I let her know when she arrived home that a woman who I found to be a great inspiration had left her earthly home, but her words would stay forever.
There is one lesson that I take from Dr. Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” I think that as a parent, which I became a parent at a young age, I didn’t know about parenting, I didn’t know about being a wife, but as I have grown, her statement is true, “When you know better, you do better.” You don’t let the circumstances of your life darken your future. You make a decision to become a better person and to break the cycle and to raise better children and to ensure that they know that the opportunities in this world must not and will not be squandered. “When you know better, you do better.” When you know better, you teach better. I find myself often looking at my three children with this thought in mind. I hope that I am raising them to be a better parent, friend, and loved one than I am. I hope that they are learning life lessons through my struggles that will change their perception of the world as I have known it and they will go out and be change agents. Dr. Angelou was a change agent. From working with Civil Rights Leaders to going to Africa and working there as a leader for equality, Dr. Angelou did not steer away from the struggles of those around her no matter where she was at.
So I saved this post for today to salute a great author that helped shape my love of the written word. The author that was able to paint my world with many different hues that I had never seen before and in ways that I never imagined existed. She was a writer that did not shy away from difficult content and told us what we needed to hear and understand in order to be our best authentic selves. The world is a little paler now that she is not here to share her words of wisdom, but there is one comfort, her words, thoughts, and actions will forever live on through the many great works that she has left us with and that she has left for our children to enjoy.