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I Don't Have Peace About My Latest Podcast

Last night, I committed a cardinal sin within the black community. On my most recent episode of S.O.L.I.D. Talk, I offered a criticism of the legendary poem, "Still I Rise", by Maya Angelou. I have went back and listened to this livestream at least twice. I believe I was objective and considerate, but I can't seem to shake the feeling of the ancestors and the matriarchy breathing down my neck. Seriously though, I realize that this poem has been a source of strength for many black women, and I don't want to tear down something that was designed to uplift. There media presents so many negative images of black women, so I don't want to disparage one of the only positive ones.

In the discussion, I mentioned a Black History Month program at my job where a spoken word artist performed "Still I Rise." I've heard this poem plenty of times before (and enjoyed it), but I hear things different now, having a renewed mind in Christ. The poem is about the resilience of the black woman and being able to stand proud in spite of others trying to keep her down.

My only criticism of the poem is that it champions the sassiness, haughtiness, and sexiness of black women as the way to show strength. Each of these attributes are discouraged in the bible, and over time they have become less of a strength and more of a weakness (in my opinion). I took the time to discuss the meaning and inspiration behind this poem, but things can get lost in translation during an hour long video. So, I would like to take a deeper look into the reasoning of why this poem is considered so powerful.

Still Rising

"Still I Rise" was published in 1978. One of the most amazing things about this poem is that Maya Angelou was able to illustrate the plight of the black women's history in just a few words. That history includes being marginalized, ostracized, and overlooked. It's very easy to comprehend someone's experienced, but you can never fully grasp it unless you go through it yourself. In my podcast, I would have liked to have put more emphasis on why sassiness, sexiness, and haughtiness is a realistic response.

It doesn't feel good to be told that you are less than, inadequate, or worthless. It doesn't feel good to feel unprotected, abandoned, or powerless in a situation. If someone has always been kept at the bottom, the natural response is to rise to the top and show them that you have not been been defeated. In a nutshell, the poem is a testimony about how this world has tried to break the black woman, but it only made her stronger.

In Maya Angelou's poem, that strength reveals itself through the sassiness, sexiness, and haughtiness of the black woman. These responses are her preferred way of saying, "look at me now." It's similar to Mike Jones rapping, "Back then they didn't want me. Now I'm hot, they all on me." The only difference is there is so much more gravity and significance behind it. It feels good to show your enemy that they gave it their best shot and you are still rising.

It's a hard ask to expect anyone to be humble when they have endured humiliation. If you press something down long enough, it is bound to spring up and maybe even hit you in the face. So, there's a reason for the attitude, the sashaying, the bravado, the neck rolls, the side eyes, and the whipping your hair back and forth. For some black women, the sashay is her victory walk. The attitude is a reminder that she is not weak, not unworthy, and not to be underestimated. For some, it is a defense mechanism to never find themselves in that position again. Either way, it is a totally understandable response from someone who has suffered adversity to throw it right back in your face.

Context Matters

So, if I could do things differently, I would have given even more context to why those qualities are considered empowering in the first place. I do believe that these traits are pervasive amongst black women today and probably do more harm than good. These behaviors are applauded at a young age, and get reenforced from generation to generation. The consequence is that what started as a badge of self esteem can easily turn into pride and arrogance, and can become a repellant.

Either way, I could have done a better job of simply offering God's definition of a valuable woman without criticizing the lived experience of Maya Angelou and other black women. I could have been more empathetic about why some of them choose to carry themselves that way. The more I meditate on this subject, I realize that much of it is about healing and forgiveness. The tough exterior and defense mechanisms won't come down until it is safe. That safety is only truly found in God and his design for your life as a woman.

No one has reached out to me about this video. I have yet to see a thumbs down. I just wanted to be accountable to my conscience and show more homage to a significant figure in black history, who has probably endured more suffering than me (for me). I didn't wake up and choose violence against Maya Angelou. This poem found its way to me and triggered some things I consider problematic within the black community today.

If this poem is special to you, let it continue to be special. It is meaningful. It is significant. It is a empowering, in its own way. I just want to express that there is another way that truly heals, and that way is only found in Christ. So, I would like to apologize for not being more empathetic to the context of this poem, as well as not putting more respect on Maya Angelou's name. Now, I am at peace.



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