I Know Why the Dead Bird Still Sings

30 of May

Countdown: Four Days until departure

Marguerite Johnson was thrust into the world on April 4, 1928, nearly 71 years before I was even a thought. But as young Marguerite traversed the temperamental tides of life, a new identity began to shape; the strong-willed woman shed a skin of abuse, silence, and racial discrimination, the sound of her indomitable voice culminating in a born person who is known by millions today as Maya Angelou. Maya: the name of a worldly woman pioneering a revived renaissance, hailed as an actress, dancer, filmmaker, producer, memoirist, poet, novelist, educator, traveler, historian, and civil rights activist. She spoke six languages, worked as editor and journalist for a period in Africa, and was involved with Malcolm X as well as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to embellish on a few of her accolades. With a son in her arms by the time she graduated high school, Maya embraced creativity and ingenuity, stretching the limits of what people believe they are capable of, empowering the world in an unprecedented wave of hope, peace, justice, and passion. She was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award nomination, three Grammys, the National Medal of Arts, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and more than fifty honorary degrees. Even considering the weight of this list, Maya’s prodigal accomplishments are still not fully recognized.

I was born Maia Jackson on May 2, 1999, and I am still known by that name today- although sometimes I am called other names like weirdo or poo-poo head by my siblings. (However, that doesn’t affect my self-identity.) For Dr. Maya, I believe the adoption of a new name signified the pain of her past healed into a person my masked by a faux persona, but a person who has blossomed and spread her roots despite a beginning of hardship. Although I cannot say that I have overcome trials like Maya endured or that I have expressed the growth in my self-identitfication through a change in my name, the way I identify myself has drastically evolved throughout the year I have spent abroad. Maya had to go through the trials and errors of life that fortified her will, but without turning an attentive ear to the  guiding presence of God, Dr. Maya could not have achieved the heights she did. To me, staggering accolades aside, the fact that Maya lived a life lead by God alone makes her a person worthy of honor and celebration. Although Maya may have left this earth, her spirit, work, dedication, and legacy have become a testimony to every nation of the glory of God; a person who’s heart, above all, will not be lost in the muddy waters of history. A person who I will always identify myself with as an artist, writer, revolutionary, and as a follower of Christ.

Maya, you may be a dead bird, but your calls will forever be heard, high and low, throughout the flourishing branches of the tree of life. Image

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