By: Nasiphi Mvunyiswa
On the 28th of May, the great and wise soul that was Maya Angelou passed away. A woman that was truly phenomenal. She was a teacher to the world, the hashtag #MayaTaughtMe trended worldwide on twitter on the day of her death. She may have left us but her extraordinary published work and lessons will forever live on in the hearts of many.
Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri on the 4th of April 1928 as Marguerite Ann Johnson. When she became more famous, she changed her name to something more original and something people would easily remember. She has published 7 autobiographies, written numerous essay books. She was a poet, Grammy winning singer, actress, I could really go on and on, there’s just so much that this one individual was able to do in her 86 years on this earth.
Maya never pretended to be perfect, she wasn’t. In her life she has made foolish mistakes, mistakes she has been very forthcoming about in her autobiographies. That’s what made her the great teacher she was, she learnt lessons from every mistake she made and taught the whole world as well. One of her quotes is “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” She truly did that.
She was truly a strong woman; she went through so many difficulties in her life but managed to rise every time. She describes this perfectly on her famous poem Still I rise, “Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise, up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise”. She was able to give people strength. People would listen to her recite or read Still I rise and realise they can rise and not stay in the difficult circumstances they are in. She was able to touch so many lives from a distance.
And the fact that a woman that has experienced so much hurt and difficulty in her life had so much love is remarkable. It could have been so easy for her to walk around with bitterness and anger, but instead she chose to love. One of her greatest lessons was to always choose to love instead of hate. To always forgive instead of letting a grudge weigh you down.
She has been one of my biggest teachers and will forever remain in my heart, may she rest in peace.