Finding a Voice Through Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s parent’s were divorced when she was three years old, resulting in her being relocated between family members several times. In addition to that hardship, when Angelou was only eight years old, she was left alone with her mother’s boyfriend and he raped her. Because of this experience, she chose not to speak for five years. Maya Angelou later began to speak and show her true self through poetry. Poetry is what ultimately helped her to begin physically speaking again. Maya Angelou regained the strength to speak for herself, and make a difference for her culture and women worldwide. Maya Angelou’s poetry has the power to inspire confidence within the conflicted individuals who lack the courage to speak for themselves. Maya’s intention to inspire confidence to others was best shown through her poems “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” “Still I Rise,” and “Phenomenal Woman.”
Marguerite (Maya) Ann Angelou was born in St. Louis on April 4, 1928. Maya definitely did not have an easy start to her complicated and successful life. According to L. Patricia Kite, Maya was only three years old when her parents, Bailey Sr. and Vivian Johnson, got divorced (Maya Angelou 6). This source also states that years later, at eight years old, Maya was left alone with her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freeman, when he raped her (23). Mr. Freeman told Maya that he would “...kill her if she screamed…[and] he would kill Bailey [Jr.] if she told anyone,” (23). Kite continues to say Maya was so afraid of Mr. Freeman that she lied in court saying that he had never touched her (26). Only hours later after Mr. Freeman’s conviction, he was found kicked to death, and Maya became so scared her lying had killed him, that she decided it was best for her to stop speaking. She thought that, “if she spoke, her evil voice might kill people,” (26). Maya Angelou: A Biography of an Award-winning Poet and Civil Rights Activist states that since that day Maya did not speak for almost five years (Agins 14). According to Mayaangelou.com, later in her life, she moved to Egypt, Europe, Ghana, and many other countries to teach, study and dance. This source also says that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked her to serve on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which she proudly did. Maya Angelou has since then written several books, hundreds of poems, and directed many movies (“Maya Angelou”). Angelou’s success proves that she took all the hurt that she experienced her whole life, and transformed it into poetry that would inspire confidence, in those hurt just like her, to speak up for themselves.
One of Maya Angelou’s famous poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” describes the bravery of Angelou, and the hope she had for others to gain confidence to not be afraid to speak up for themselves. In the lines, “The free bird leaps/ on the back of the wind/ and floats downstream/ till the current ends/ and dips his wings/ in the orange sun rays/...