In her book of essays Letter to my Daughter, Dr. Maya Angelou speaks of birthday and well wishes exchanged between her and Coretta Scott King every year following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That she remained friends with Mrs. King decades after King’s assassination and referring to the widow as “a chosen friend” speaks volumes about the woman behind the poet/author/dancer/actress/professor/civilrightsactivist.
Because I have spent the better part of my life seeking and receiving sound counsel from their writings, I will be honoring Dr. Angelou’s birth and Dr. King’s death by sharing snapshots of the wisdom they’ve gifted us throughout their lifetimes.
Over the years, the following quotes have soothed my ire, fueled my passions, and strengthened my commitment to my fellow woman.
May they nurture you as well.
Still I Rise
“Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”
And, my favorite — Phenomenal Woman
“Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Letter from the Birmingham Jail
“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here …I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
Speech: Beyond Vietnam
“I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”
From Dr. King’s Mountaintop speech in Memphis the evening before his assassination:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”