As if it were yesterday, I can recall nearly two semester's ago, an assignment I was given in African-American Lit. For the assignment, every student had to exposit one of several readings that demonstrated a mastery and authoritative voice of an author's text. As the books were being passed around, oddly, I felt a strong conviction to choose "I Know why the Caged Bird Sings".
After nearly a month and half of reading, I began to feel different. I was slowly be drawn in by the story Angelou was telling. I began to feel every nuance, every motif, every poetic metaphor of her life in Stamps that left me with the impression that I was on those dusty roads with her.
I was witnessing her innocence as a child. I was witnessing her curiosity about faith and family. I was witnessing her ambiguous relationship to racism in this country. Moreover, I was witnesses sing her awareness of self; despite her displacement, disruption, silence.
Quite naturally, after Caged Bird, I had a growth of sympathy; not only for Angelou, but for Black women as a whole. I began to sympathize with their rape, I began to sympathized with their silence, I was growing sympathetic to the difficulty of identity formation in a society that doesn't see their humanity, but instead, their usefulness for exploitation. Powerful, right?
Out of all the novels I've had the privilege to read, not many have given me such a lesson. Not only a lesson in my blackness, but my maleness. Maya Angelou revealed to me that regardless, of gender or race, we all have had things that have attempted to silence us. However, as Maya's life and writing has shown us, there is no cage with bars strong enough to conceal ones voice. That voice is the key that lead you to freedom.
I write this with a grateful heart and eyes full of tears:
Thank you Dr. Angelou.