A Quick Tribute to a Great Wordsmith


I was raised in a place where “word is bond” and loyalty outweighs logistics. I was raised in a place where crackheads were your neighbors but that was just “their thing” and you knew never to pass judgement.  I was raised where basketball hoops had no rims…just backboard (if you were lucky.)  I was raised where you were bourgeois if you went to private school. I was bourgeois because my mom dropped me to school in her company car. People assumed what they didn’t know because I was raised by a rule of never “airing the dirty laundry. ”  I was raised with the social standard : “children should be seen and not heard.” So since I couldn’t be heard, since I could only be viewed by the eye, since perception was skewed,  since my feelings would have no bearing on my reality…I wrote.

I was published in an anthology at age 12. Since I was a middle class awkward black girl who could write I was often referred to as “the next Maya Angelou. ” Although, no other female colored poet had that kind of notoriety, I didn’t want to be compared to anyone.  I read “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I thought Maya’s writing was so beautiful despite the difficulty of her life. However, I wanted my writing to evoke the pain and anger I felt. I wanted it to make people cry. I wanted to be responsible for pieces that tear away at the souls of others and force them to deal with the parts of themselves that they hide away.  

“Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development,  invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.”~Edgar A. Poe

Dr.Maya Angelou had friends like novelist James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr.  She met with Malcolm X in Ghana in 1964. She was buddies with Oprah Winfrey.  She was classy, respected and profound.  I’m still in awe of her career that grew up with me.  I’m in awe of poise that doesn’t expire. I’m in awe of a legacy that will be difficult for anyone to match. 

May you rest in eternal peace, Dr Maya Angelou.  Stop in on the writers block every once in awhile.

By: Shaun M N

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