“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
- Maya Angelou
Poet, novelist, filmmaker, dancer, and civil rights activist are only a few titles Maya Angelou carried throughout her life. Angelou is a prime example of success driven by passion. In 86 years, she was able to conquer her passions while enduring racial and gender prejudices, as well as the hardships of being a young mother.
Maya was born on April 8, 1928, as Marguerite Annie Johnson. Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, her passion for dance earned her a spot in the San Francisco Labor School, where she studied drama and theater before leaving to become a cable car conductor. At the age of 16, she gave birth to a son, Guy. In order to afford a child, Maya had to take on several jobs.
But this didn’t deter her from striving for her dreams.
In the late 50's, Maya Angelou joined the Harlem Writers Guild to further her pursuit of a writing career. It was there where she wrote I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, which would become a best seller in 1970s. Maya would continue to write 30 bestselling books, poetry, music, plays, and films. Much of Maya Angelou’s poetry was often based on the concepts of overcoming obstacles similar to her own and reaching higher places. She wrote several award winning activist poems regarding the discrimination she faced in the south.
Gender equality and female empowerment were also recurring themes of her work. Some of her most famous poems include Phenomenal Woman, Still I Rise, Caged Bird, and Woman Work.
In honor of National Poetry Month, the Gladeo League acknowledges Maya Angelou, an American icon who shows no matter how daunting goals may seem, with perseverance and struggle, anything is achievable.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
- Maya Angelou
Austin Sybouts, National Poetry Month Content Curator