A civil rights activist. A poet. A writer.
All the words I used just now describe perfectly the leader I am profiling today – Maya Angelou.
Maya Angelou was born in 1928 and built a career for herself in creative arts that spanned over 50 years. She was also awarded close to 50 honorary degrees during her lifetime.
However, she did not have a happy childhood. Early in life, she worked as a sex-worker and was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Her autobiography “I know why the caged bird sings” was one of the first autobiographical books by an African-American female author to top the bestseller lists and was nominated for the Booker Prize.
She is perhaps best known for her poem “On the pulse of morning” which she composed and delivered during President Clinton’s inauguration. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. Her life is an inspiration to everyone who has been a victim of assault and made a remarkable life for themselves inspired by it.
I want to end the leader-profile today with a couple of stanzas from one of her poems* – “Still I rise”
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, l like dirt, I’ll rise.
Leaving behind the nights of terror and fear
Into a daylight that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
*From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.
Written by Deepa Seshadri, Women LEAD Toastmasters member